Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

The prognostic significance and value of cyclin D1, CDK4 and p16 in human breast cancer

Emmi Peurala13, Peppi Koivunen2, Kirsi-Maria Haapasaari13, Risto Bloigu4 and Arja Jukkola-Vuorinen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oncology and Radiotherapy, Oulu University Hospital, and University of Oulu, Kajaanintie 50, P.O. Box 22, 90029 Oulu, Finland

2 Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Oulu Center for Cell-Matrix Research, University of Oulu, Aapistie 7, P.O. Box 5000, 90014 Oulu, Finland

3 Department of Pathology, University of Oulu, Aapistie 5b, P.O. Box 5000, 90014 Oulu, Finland

4 Medical Informatics and Statistics Research Group, University of Oulu, Aapistie 7, P.O. Box 5000, 90014 Oulu, Finland

For all author emails, please log on.

Breast Cancer Research 2013, 15:R5  doi:10.1186/bcr3376

Published: 21 January 2013



Loss of the retinoblastoma protein tumor suppressor gene (RB) coding for a nuclear phosphoprotein that regulates the cell cycle is found in many human cancers and probably leads to disruption of the p16-cyclin D1-CDK4/6-RB pathway. Cyclin D1 is known to activate CDK4, which then phosphorylates the RB protein, leading to cell cycle progression. p16 inhibits CDK4, keeping RB hypophosphorylated and preventing cell cycle progression. The significance of these three markers, cyclin D1, CDK4 and p16, for breast cancer and carcinogenesis is nevertheless still controversial.


The material consisted of 102 formalin-fixed human breast cancer samples, in which cyclin D1, CDK4 and p16 expression was evaluated immunohistochemically. The amounts of cyclin D1 mRNA present were analyzed by quantitative real time PCR.


High cyclin D1 expression statistically significantly correlated with lower tumor grade, estrogen and progesterone receptor positivity and lower proliferation activity in breast tumors and increased breast cancer-specific survival and overall survival. Tumors with high cyclin D1 protein had 1.8 times higher expression of cyclin D1 mRNA. CDK4 expression did not correlate with cyclin D1 expression or the survival data. p16 expression was associated with Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2) negativity and increased breast cancer-specific survival and disease-free survival. No statistical correlations between cyclin D1, CDK4 and p16 were found.


Cyclin D1 was associated with a good breast cancer prognosis but functioned independently of CDK4. High cyclin D1 expression may be partially due to increased CCND1 transcription. p16 correlated with a better prognosis and may function without CDK4. In conclusion, it appears that cyclin D1, CDK4 and p16 function independently in human breast cancer.