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J Clin Oncol. 2008 May 20;26(15):2568-81. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2007.13.1748.

Basal-like breast cancer: a critical review.

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Department of Histopathology, Nottingham City Hospital National Health Service (NHS) Trust, UK.


Recent gene expression profiling of breast cancer has identified specific subtypes with clinical, biologic, and therapeutic implications. The basal-like group of tumors is characterized by an expression signature similar to that of the basal/myoepithelial cells of the breast and is reported to have transcriptomic characteristics similar to those of tumors arising in BRCA1 germline mutation carriers. They are associated with aggressive behavior and poor prognosis, and typically do not express hormone receptors or HER-2 ("triple-negative" phenotype). Therefore, patients with basal-like cancers are unlikely to benefit from currently available targeted systemic therapy. Although basal-like tumors are characterized by distinctive morphologic, genetic, immunophenotypic, and clinical features, neither an accepted consensus on routine clinical identification and definition of this aggressive subtype of breast cancer nor a way of systematically classifying this complex group of tumors has been described. Different definitions are, therefore, likely to produce variable and contradictory results that may hamper consistent identification and development of treatment strategies for these tumors. In this review, we discuss definition, heterogeneity, morphologic spectrum, relation to BRCA1, and clinical significance of this important class of breast cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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