Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Oncologist. 2012;17(2):172-8. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2011-0127. Epub 2012 Jan 20.

Molecular alterations between the primary breast cancer and the subsequent locoregional/metastatic tumor.

Author information

Department of Medical Oncology, British Columbia Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia, 600 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V5Z 4E6.



Metastatic breast cancers have historically been presumed to have the same predictive biomarkers as the initial primary tumor. We compared the expression of these biomarkers in a large paired tissue microarray (TMA) series of primary and subsequent relapsed tumors.


Using the British Columbia Cancer Agency Breast Cancer Outcomes Unit database, patients with biopsy-proven relapses were identified and linked to a large TMA series of primary breast cancers from 1986-1992. Charts were reviewed, and tissue blocks of the metastatic cancer were collected to create a separate TMA. Immunohistochemical assessment with the same antibodies and conditions was performed for estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER)-2 on both the primary and relapsed tumors.


One hundred sixty cases were received that had tumor adequate for analyses. Of these, 71.9% had no changes in either the ER or PR status or HER-2 status. Of the 45 (28.1%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 21.2%-35.1%) tumors that did have changes in receptor status, 7.5% were in-breast recurrences or new breast primaries, 4.4% had changes in PR status only and were therefore deemed clinically irrelevant, and 19.4% (95% CI, 13.3%-25.5%) had changes in either the ER or HER-2 status from regional or distant relapses. Five percent of tumors had a receptor status change going from ER(+) or PR(+) to ER(-) or PR(-); 9.4% went from ER(-) or PR(-) to ER(+) or PR(+). With regard to HER-2 status, 3.8% of tumors went from positive to negative and 1.3% went from negative to positive. For all discordant cases, biopsies of the relapsed lesion were obtained prior to initiation of first-line treatment for metastatic disease. In the primary tumors that were ER(+), time to relapse was significantly shorter in the discordant relapsed cases than in the concordant ones (p = .0002). Changes in loss or gain of either biomarker were seen across the discordant cases.


A significant proportion of relapsed tumors had changes in either ER or HER-2 status, which would dramatically alter treatment recommendations and clinical behavior. This study suggests that biopsies of relapsed and metastatic breast cancers should be performed routinely in clinical practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center