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Br J Cancer. 2001 Oct 19;85(8):1106-12.

Relationship between tumour shrinkage and reduction in Ki67 expression after primary chemotherapy in human breast cancer.

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  • 1Centro di Senologia, Azienda Ospedaliera Istituti Ospitalieri, Viale Concordia 1, Cremona, 26100, Italy.


The association between tumour shrinkage and reduction in kinetic cell activity after primary chemotherapy in human breast cancer is still a matter of investigation. 157 patients with T2-4, N0-1, M0 breast cancer received primary chemotherapy consisting of either the CMF regimen + tamoxifen (the first consecutive 76 cases) or the single agent epirubicin (the subsequent 81). Ki67, p53, bcl2, c-erbB2 and steroid hormone receptors were evaluated immunohistochemically in tumour specimens obtained before chemotherapy and at surgery. Tumour shrinkage of >50% occurred in 72.4% of patients. Ki67 expression significantly decreased after chemotherapy; the reduction correlated with tumour response in both univariate (P < 0.005) and multivariate analysis (P = 0.02). p53, bcl-2, steroid hormone receptor and c-erbB2 immunostaining were scarcely affected. Baseline bcl2 (P = 0.04) and c-erbB2 (P = 0.02) were directly and inversely associated with the reduction in Ki67 immunostaining, respectively. Baseline p53 expression (P < 0.01) was directly related with Ki67 expression at residual tumour, whereas oestrogen receptor expression (P < 0.001) was inversely related. Ki67 at residual tumour was a better predictor for relapse-free survival (RFS) than baseline Ki67. Clinical response (P < 0.03), but not reduction in Ki67, was a significant independent predictor for disease recurrence. Chemotherapy was found to induce tumour shrinkage and to reduce the number of cells in the cell cycle, but its effect on tumour biology/aggressiveness was minimal. Reduction in Ki67 immunostaining correlated with clinical response but failed to be related to RFS. Ki67 expression at surgery rather than at baseline appears to be a better predictor for disease relapse.

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