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J Am Coll Surg. 1998 Jul;187(1):9-16.

Detection of occult breast cancer micrometastases in axillary lymph nodes using a multimarker reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction panel.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Hollings Cancer Center and Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Axillary lymph node status in breast cancer patients remains the single most important predictor of outcomes. Current methods of histopathologic analysis may be inadequate because 30% of node-negative patients recur. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that a multigene reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) panel provides a more sensitive method to detect axillary lymph node metastases than routine pathologic examination.

STUDY DESIGN:

Sixty-one consecutive breast cancer patients were evaluated, with nine normal control patients. Nodes > 1 cm were bisected for histopathologic and RT-PCR analysis. Nodal tissue was homogenized, and total RNA was converted into cDNA with reverse transcriptase. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis was performed with primers specific for keratin-19, c-myc, prolactin inducible protein (PIP), and beta-actin using ethidium bromide gel electrophoresis. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction positive/ pathology negative axillary lymph nodes were reevaluated using step sectioning and immunohistochemical staining.

RESULTS:

Thirty-seven patients had pathologically negative axillary lymph nodes, of which 15 (40%) were positive by RT-PCR analysis. Two RT-PCR negative results (one probably from tissue processing error and the other secondary to sampling error) among the 24 histologically positive specimens were detected (8%). The number of patients in each pathologic stage was 26 patients in stage I; 18, stage IIA; 7, stage IIB; 7, stage IIIA; 3, stage IIIB; and 0 patients in stage IV. By RT-PCR staging, 8 of 26 patients went from stage I to IIA (30%), and 7 of 18 from stage IIA to IIB (39%). Of the RT-PCR positive individuals who were stage I by pathologic analysis, 100% were found to be c-myc positive, 0% keratin-19 positive, and 0% PIP positive; for stage IIIB patients these markers were 50%, 100%, and 100% respectively. Additionally, an increasing number of positive markers per specimen appeared to correlate with larger primary tumor size (p < 0.01) and decreased predicted 5-year survival (r = 0.950, p < 0.002).

CONCLUSIONS:

Multimarker RT-PCR analysis appears to be a readily available and highly sensitive method for the detection of axillary lymph node micrometastases. Longterm followup of RT-PCR positive patients will be required to determine its clinical relevance. If validated as a predictor of disease recurrence, this method would provide a powerful complement to routine histopathologic analysis of axillary lymph nodes.

PMID:
9660019
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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