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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 3;9(2):e87264. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087264. eCollection 2014.

Prognostic value of Ki-67 in breast cancer patients with positive axillary lymph nodes: a retrospective cohort study.

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  • 1Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China, Department of Radiation Oncology, Collaborative Innovation Center of Cancer Medicine, Guangzhou, People's Republic of China.
  • 2Xiamen Cancer Center, Department of Radiation Oncology, the First Affiliated Hospital of Xiamen University, Xiamen, People's Republic of China.
  • 3Xiamen Cancer Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the First Affiliated Hospital of Xiamen University, Xiamen, People's Republic of China.



Ki-67 expression is a biomarker for proliferation. Its prognostic value is recognized in breast cancer (BC) patients with negative axillary nodes, but is less clear in BC patients with positive axillary lymph nodes.


We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 1131 Chinese BC patients treated from January 2002 to June 2007 and 450 patients met the inclusion criteria: positive nodes, adjuvant therapy, and complete biomarker profile (estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), HER2, p53, Ki-67). Univariate and multivariate regression analysis were used to correlate biomarkers and tumor characteristics with metastasis free survival (MFS) and overall survival (OS).


Median follow-up time was 46 months (range 5-76 months). The Ki-67 expression was associated significantly with histological grade, ER, PR, HER2, and P53 status (P<0.05). Tumor stage, nodal stage, and ER status were independent prognostic factors for MFS. Ki-67 status was associated significantly with OS but not MFS. To determine whether the extent of LN involvement in the BC patients influenced the role of Ki-67 in survival rates, we compared these variables in patients with 1-3 positive lymph nodes (N1) to those of patients with ≥ 4 positive lymph nodes. Ki-67 status was an independent prognostic factor for MFS (Hazard Ratio, 3.27, P = 0.026) and overall survival (HR, 10.64, P = 0.007) in patients with 1-3 positive nodes (N1).


The possibility that Ki-67 expression together with clinical factors can improve prediction of the prognosis of BC patients with 1 ∼ 3 positive axillary lymph nodes warrants further studies.

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