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J Transl Med. 2005 Aug 9;3:32.

Predictors of primary breast cancers responsiveness to preoperative epirubicin/cyclophosphamide-based chemotherapy: translation of microarray data into clinically useful predictive signatures.

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Institute of Chemical Oncology, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany.



Our goal was to identify gene signatures predictive of response to preoperative systemic chemotherapy (PST) with epirubicin/cyclophosphamide (EC) in patients with primary breast cancer.


Needle biopsies were obtained pre-treatment from 83 patients with breast cancer and mRNA was profiled on Affymetrix HG-U133A arrays. Response ranged from pathologically confirmed complete remission (pCR), to partial remission (PR), to stable or progressive disease, "No Change" (NC). A primary analysis was performed in breast tissue samples from 56 patients and 5 normal healthy individuals as a training cohort for predictive marker identification. Gene signatures identifying individuals most likely to respond completely to PST-EC were extracted by combining several statistical methods and filtering criteria. In order to optimize prediction of non responding tumors Student's t-test and Wilcoxon test were also applied. An independent cohort of 27 patients was used to challenge the predictive signatures. A k-Nearest neighbor algorithm as well as two independent linear partial least squares determinant analysis (PLS-DA) models based on the training cohort were selected for classification of the test samples. The average specificity of these predictions was greater than 74% for pCR, 100% for PR and greater than 62% for NC. All three classification models could identify all pCR cases.


The differential expression of 59 genes in the training and the test cohort demonstrated capability to predict response to PST-EC treatment. Based on the training cohort a classifier was constructed following a decision tree. First, a transcriptional profile capable to distinguish cancerous from normal tissue was identified. Then, a "favorable outcome signature" (31 genes) and a "poor outcome signature" (26 genes) were extracted from the cancer specific signatures. This stepwise implementation could predict pCR and distinguish between NC and PR in a subsequent set of patients. Both PLS-DA models were implemented to discriminate all three response classes in one step.


In this study signatures were identified capable to predict clinical outcome in an independent set of primary breast cancer patients undergoing PST-EC.

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