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J Breast Cancer. 2012 Jun;15(2):197-202. doi: 10.4048/jbc.2012.15.2.197. Epub 2012 Jun 28.

Impact of triple-negative breast cancer phenotype on prognosis in patients with stage I breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.



Although most patients with stage I breast cancer have a good prognosis, their clinical outcomes may vary significantly. We assessed clinical outcomes and prognostic factors in stage I breast cancer patients with and without triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) phenotype.


Of 2,489 patients undergoing breast cancer surgery between January 1998 and December 2002, 554 (22.3%) had stage I breast cancer (tumor size ≤2 cm, and lymph node-negative). TNBC was defined as a primary tumor negative for estrogen and progesterone receptors (Allred scores <3/8) and for HER2/neu (0-1+ by immunohistochemistry).


Of the 554 patients with stage I breast cancer, 78 (14.1%) had TNBC. A significant proportion of TNBC patients had histologic grade 3 tumors (47.4% vs. 34.5%, p=0.031) and tumors >1 cm (87.2% vs. 75.8%, p=0.028) and received adjuvant chemotherapy (79.5% vs. 44.7%, p<0.001). During a median follow-up time of 8.7 years, 72 patients experienced tumor recurrences; 18 (23.1%) in the TNBC group and 54 (11.3%) in the non-TNBC group (p=0.010), with cumulative 3-year rate of recurrence of 12.8% and 5.3%, respectively (p=0.010). Ten-year relapse-free survival (RFS; 75.6% vs. 87.5%, p=0.004) and overall survival (OS; 83.0% vs. 91.4%, p=0.002) rates were significantly lower in the TNBC group. Multivariate analysis showed that triple negativity and histologic grade were independent predictors of shorter RFS and OS.


TNBC had more aggressive clinicopathologic characteristics and was associated with poorer survival in patients with stage I breast cancer. More intensive adjuvant chemotherapy or a different therapeutic strategy targeting this population is warranted.


Breast neoplasms; HER2/neu; Prognosis

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