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Br J Cancer. 2003 Sep 15;89(6):977-82.

Pretreatment haemoglobin levels significantly predict the tumour response to primary chemotherapy in human breast cancer.

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Breast Unit, Azienda Ospedaliera Istituti Ospitalieri, Cremona, Italy.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether tumour response to primary chemotherapy in human breast cancer is influenced by baseline haemoglobin (Hb) status. A total of 157 patients with T2-4, N0-1 M0 breast cancer were treated with chemotherapy consisting of either the CMF regimen + tamoxifen (the first 76 cases) or the single-agent epirubicin (the subsequent 81) before definitive surgery. In total, 144 patients were fully assessable. Ki67, p53, bcl-2, c-erbB2, steroid hormone receptor, and microvessel density were evaluated immunohistochemically in tumour specimens obtained before chemotherapy and at surgery. Tumour shrinkage >50% occurred in 72.1% of patients. Responding patients had higher baseline Hb levels and red blood cell counts than nonresponders (P<0.01 and <0.003, respectively). The distribution of disease response according to increasing cutoffs of baseline Hb status showed that from 12.5 mg l(-1) onwards, patients with Hb levels above the cutoff obtained a greater response rate than those with lower Hb values. The difference attained the statistical significance at 12.5 (76.1 vs 59.5%, P<0.05) and 13.0 g/dl(-1) (81.0 vs 57.6%, P<0.002) cutoffs, respectively. The predictive role of Hb levels was maintained in multivariate analysis after adjustment for clinical and biological characteristics and treatment regimen. Patients with baseline Hb levels </=13 g dl(-1) showed a lower treatment-induced reduction in Ki67 expression (P<0.04) and a higher Ki67 expression at postoperative evaluation (P<0.02) than their counterparts. In conclusion, low Hb levels may negatively influence the response rate of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. Inhibition of antiproliferative activity could be a possible mechanism.

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