NOHA: A Promising Biomarker for Determining Estrogen Receptor Status Among Patients With Breast Cancer in Resource-Constrained Settings

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Publication Date




Journal Title

JCO Global Oncology

MeSH Headings

Humans; Female; Breast Neoplasms (diagnosis, therapy); Receptors, Estrogen; Tanzania; Biomarkers, Tumor; Immunohistochemistry


PURPOSE: Challenges to breast cancer control in low-and middle-income countries exist because of constrained access to care, including pathology services. Immunohistochemistry (IHC)-based estrogen receptor (ER) analysis is limited-nonexistent because of few and inadequately staffed and equipped pathology laboratories. We have identified N-hydroxy-L-Arginine (NOHA) as a blood-based biomarker to distinguish ER status in US patients with breast cancer. Here, we examine NOHA's clinical utility as an ER IHC alternative in Tanzanian patients. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Following informed consent, 70 newly diagnosed, known or suspected patients with breast cancer were enrolled at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center; basic, deidentified clinical and sociodemographic data were collected. For each, a needle prick amount of blood was collected on a Noviplex plasma card and stored at -80°C. Plasma cards and unstained tumor pathology slides were shipped regularly to US laboratories for NOHA, histologic and IHC analysis. NOHA and IHC assay operators were blinded to each other's result and patient clinical status. Paired NOHA and IHC results were compared. RESULTS: Slides from 43 participants were available for pathological analysis in the United States. Of those with confirmed malignancy (n = 39), 44%, 51%, 5% were ER-positive, ER-negative, and ER inconclusive, respectively. NOHA levels were available among 33 of 43 of those with pathological data and showed distinct threshold levels correlating 100% to tumor ER IHC and disease categorization where a level below 4 nM, from 4 to 8 nM, and above 8 nM signified ER-negative, ER-positive, and no cancer, respectively. CONCLUSION: The results are consistent with findings from US patients and suggest NOHA's clinical utility as an accessible IHC replacement in determining ER status among low-and middle-income country patients with breast cancer, promising to extend access to cost-efficient, available hormonal agents and improve outcomes.

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