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J Clin Oncol. 2014 Sep 20;32(27):2959-66.

Prognostic value of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in triple-negative breast cancers from two phase III randomized adjuvant breast cancer trials: ECOG 2197 and ECOG 1199.



Recent studies suggest that tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) are associated with disease-free (DFS) and overall survival (OS) in operable triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). We seek to validate the prognostic impact of TILs in primary TNBCs in two adjuvant phase III trials conducted by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG).


Full-face hematoxylin and eosin–stained sections of 506 tumors from ECOG trials E2197 and E1199 were evaluated for density of TILs in intraepithelial (iTILs) and stromal compartments (sTILs). Patient cases of TNBC from E2197 and E1199 were randomly selected based on availability of sections. For the primary end point of DFS, association with TIL scores was determined by fitting proportional hazards models stratified on study. Secondary end points were OS and distant recurrence–free interval (DRFI). Reporting recommendations for tumor marker prognostic studies criteria were followed, and all analyses were prespecified.


The majority of 481 evaluable cancers had TILs (sTILs, 80%; iTILs, 15%). With a median follow-up of 10.6 years, higher sTIL scores were associated with better prognosis; for every 10% increase in sTILs, a 14% reduction of risk of recurrence or death (P = .02), 18% reduction of risk of distant recurrence (P = .04), and 19% reduction of risk of death (P = .01) were observed. Multivariable analysis confirmed sTILs to be an independent prognostic marker of DFS, DRFI, and OS.


In two national randomized clinical trials using contemporary adjuvant chemotherapy, we confirm that stromal lymphocytic infiltration constitutes a robust prognostic factor in TNBCs. Studies assessing outcomes and therapeutic efficacies should consider stratification for this parameter.

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