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Clin Cancer Res. 2005 May 1;11(9):3315-9.

Prognostic role of a multigene reverse transcriptase-PCR assay in patients with node-negative breast cancer not receiving adjuvant systemic therapy.

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  • 1Department of Breast Medical Oncology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.



To test the ability of a reverse transcriptase-PCR (RT-PCR) assay, based on gene expression profiles, to accurately determine the risk of recurrence in patients with node-negative breast cancer who did not receive systemic therapy using formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue. A secondary objective was to determine whether the quantitative RT-PCR data correlated with immunohistochemistry assay data regarding estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 status.


We obtained archival paraffin-embedded tissue from patients with invasive breast cancer but no axillary lymph node involvement who had received no adjuvant systemic therapy and been followed for at least 5 years. RNA was extracted from three 10-microm-thick sections. The expression of 16 cancer-related genes and 5 reference genes was quantified using RT-PCR. A gene expression algorithm was used to calculate a recurrence score for each patient. We then assessed the ability of the test to accurately predict distant recurrence-free survival in this population.


We identified 149 eligible patients. Median age at diagnosis was 59 years; mean tumor diameter was 2 cm; and 69% of tumors were estrogen receptor positive. Median follow-up was 18 years. The 5-year disease-free survival rate for the group was 80%. The 21 gene-based recurrence score was not predictive of distant disease recurrence. However, a high concordance between RT-PCR and immunohistochemical assays for estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 status was noted.


RT-PCR can be done on paraffin-embedded tissue to validate the large numbers of genes associated with breast cancer recurrence. However, further work needs to be done to develop an assay to identify the likelihood of recurrent disease in patients with node-negative breast cancer who do not receive adjuvant tamoxifen or chemotherapy.

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