Breast cancers from black women exhibit higher numbers of immunosuppressive macrophages with proliferative activity and of crown-like structures associated with lower survival compared to non-black Latinas and Caucasians

Tulay Sengul, Ana M. Santander, Feng Miao, Lidia G. Sanchez, Merce Jorda, Stefan Glück, Tan Ince, Mehrdad Nadji, Zhibin Chen, Manuel L. Penichet, Margot P. Cleary, Marta Torroella-Kouri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations


Racial disparities in breast cancer incidence and outcome are a major health care challenge. Patients in the black race group more likely present with an early onset and more aggressive disease. The occurrence of high numbers of macrophages is associated with tumor progression and poor prognosis in solid malignancies. Macrophages are observed in adipose tissues surrounding dead adipocytes in “crown-like structures” (CLS). Here we investigated whether the numbers of CD163+ tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and/or CD163+ CLS are associated with patient survival and whether there are significant differences across blacks, non-black Latinas, and Caucasians. Our findings confirm that race is statistically significantly associated with the numbers of TAMs and CLS in breast cancer, and demonstrate that the highest numbers of CD163+ TAM/CLS are found in black breast cancer patients. Our results reveal that the density of CD206 (M2) macrophages is a significant predictor of progression-free survival univariately and is also significant after adjusting for race and for HER2, respectively. We examined whether the high numbers of TAMs detected in tumors from black women were associated with macrophage proliferation, using the Ki-67 nuclear proliferation marker. Our results reveal that TAMs actively divide when in contact with tumor cells. There is a higher ratio of proliferating macrophages in tumors from black patients. These findings suggest that interventions based on targeting TAMs may not only benefit breast cancer patients in general but also serve as an approach to remedy racial disparity resulting in better prognosis patients from minority racial groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-126
Number of pages14
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016



  • Breast cancer
  • Crown-like structures
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophages
  • Race/ethnicities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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