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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Sep 15;10(18 Pt 1):5988-97.

Molecular cytogenetic identification of subgroups of grade III invasive ductal breast carcinomas with different clinical outcomes.

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  • 1The Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre, Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK.


Tumor grade is an established indicator of breast cancer outcome, although considerable heterogeneity exists even within-grade. Around 25% of grade III invasive ductal breast carcinomas are associated with a "basal" phenotype, and these tumors are reported to be a distinct subgroup. We have investigated whether this group of breast cancers has a distinguishing pattern of genetic alterations and which of these may relate to the different clinical outcome of these patients. We performed comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) analysis on 43 grade III invasive ductal breast carcinomas positive for basal cytokeratin 14, as well as 43 grade- and age-matched CK14-negative controls, all with up to 25 years (median, 7 years) of clinical follow-up. Significant differences in CGH alterations were seen between the two groups in terms of mean number of changes (CK14+ve - 6.5, CK14-ve - 10.3; P = 0.0012) and types of alterations at chromosomes 4q, 7q, 8q, 9p, 13q, 16p, 17p, 17q, 19p, 19q, 20p, 20q and Xp. Supervised and unsupervised algorithms separated the two groups on CGH data alone with 76% and 74% accuracy, respectively. Hierarchical clustering revealed distinct subgroups, one of which contained 18 (42%) of the CK14+ve tumors. This subgroup had significantly shorter overall survival (P=0.0414) than other grade III tumors, regardless of CK14 status, and was an independent prognostic marker (P=0.031). These data provide evidence that the "basal" phenotype on its own does not convey a poor prognosis. Basal tumors are also heterogeneous with only a subset, identifiable by pattern of genetic alterations, exhibiting a shorter overall survival. Robust characterization of this basal group is necessary if it is to have a major impact on management of patients with breast cancer.

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