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J Clin Oncol. 2008 Sep 10;26(26):4282-8. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2008.16.6231.

Clinical and pathologic characteristics of patients with BRCA-positive and BRCA-negative breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Breast Medical Oncology, Unit 1354, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes confer greater risk of developing breast cancer. We determined whether tumor pathologic features and clinical features differ in patients with and without BRCA mutations.


Tumor pathologic features and clinical characteristics were examined in 491 women with breast cancer who underwent genetic testing for BRCA mutations between 1997 and 2006. A retrospective review of medical records was conducted to determine clinical characteristics including ethnicity, age and clinical stage at diagnosis, age at parity, number of full-term pregnancies, use of oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, and BRCA mutation status. Tumor pathology was reviewed to determine histologic type, tumor grade, and estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER-2/neu status.


Of the 491 patients with identified breast cancers, 391 patients were BRCA negative, and 86 patients were BRCA positive. Triple-negative breast cancer (ie, those with negative estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER-2/neu status) was diagnosed in 57.1% of the BRCA1-positive patients, 23.3% of the BRCA2-positive patients, and 13.8% of the BRCA-negative patients. BRCA1 mutation carriers had higher nuclear grade tumors than the other two groups (P < .001). Of the triple-negative cancer patients, BRCA2 mutation carriers were older when diagnosed than BRCA1 mutation carriers and noncarriers (P < .01).


These results suggest that tumors associated with BRCA1 mutations may be divided into two distinct groups, triple-negative and non-triple-negative groups. Future studies should seek to determine whether patients with BRCA1 mutations and triple-negative breast cancer respond to treatment better than BRCA-negative patients with similar tumor pathology.

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