Indicators of prognosis in node-negative breast cancer

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Abstract

Measures of the proliferative activity of tumor cells have prognostic value in patients with node-negative breast cancer. We studied 367 women in southern Sweden who had undergone surgical resection for such cancer. Tumor specimens were analyzed with DNA flow cytometry in order to estimate both the DNA content (ploidy) and the fraction of cells in the synthetic phase of the cell cycle (S phase). The median duration of follow-up was four years; 28 percent of the patients received adjuvant therapy, usually with tamoxifen (n = 83). A multivariate analysis based on complete data on 250 patients included the following covariates: age (greater than or equal to 75, 50 to 74, and less than or equal to 49 years), tumor size (less than or equal to 20 vs. greater than 20 mm), concentration of estrogen and progesterone receptors (less than 10 vs. greater than or equal to 10 fmol per milligram of protein), ploidy (diploid vs. nondiploid), and S-phase category (fraction of cells in S phase: less than 7.0 percent, 7.0 to 11.9 percent, and greater than or equal to 12 percent). The S-phase fraction yielded the most prognostic information, followed by progesterone-receptor status and tumor size. A prognostic model based on these three variables identified 37 percent of the patients as constituting a high-risk group with a fourfold increased risk of distant recurrence. In the remaining 63 percent of the patients, the five-year overall survival rate (92 +/- 4 [+/- SE] percent) did not differ from the expected age-adjusted rate for Swedish women. We conclude that a prognostic index that includes indicators of the proliferative activity of tumor cells may be able to identify women with node-negative breast cancer in whom the risk of recurrence is sufficiently low that adjuvant chemotherapy can be avoided.

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  • Cancer and Oncology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1053
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Volume322
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1990
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes