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Clin Cancer Res. 2014 Dec 1;20(23):5995-6005. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-1622. Epub 2014 Sep 25.

Multiplexed quantitative analysis of CD3, CD8, and CD20 predicts response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer.

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Department of Pathology, Yale University Medical School, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Surgery, Yale University Medical School, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Pathology, Yale University Medical School, New Haven, Connecticut.



Although tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) have been associated with response to neoadjuvant therapy, measurement typically is subjective, semiquantitative, and unable to differentiate among subpopulations. Here, we describe a quantitative objective method for analyzing lymphocyte subpopulations and assessing their predictive value.


We developed a quantitative immunofluorescence assay to measure stromal expression of CD3, CD8, and CD20 on one slide. We validated this assay by comparison with flow cytometry on tonsil specimens and assessed predictive value in breast cancer on a neoadjuvant cohort (n = 95). Then, each marker was tested for prediction of pathologic complete response (pCR) compared with pathologist estimation of the percentage of lymphocyte infiltrate.


The lymphocyte percentage and CD3, CD8, and CD20 proportions were similar between flow cytometry and quantitative immunofluorescence on tonsil specimens. Pathologist TIL count predicted pCR [P = 0.043; OR, 4.77; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.05-21.6] despite fair interobserver reproducibility (κ = 0.393). Stromal AQUA (automated quantitative analysis) scores for CD3 (P = 0.023; OR, 2.51; 95% CI, 1.13-5.57), CD8 (P = 0.029; OR, 2.00; 95% CI, 1.08-3.72), and CD20 (P = 0.005; OR, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.19-2.72) predicted pCR in univariate analysis. CD20 AQUA score predicted pCR (P = 0.019; OR, 5.37; 95% CI, 1.32-21.8) independently of age, size, nuclear grade, nodal status, ER, PR, HER2, and Ki-67, whereas CD3, CD8, and pathologist estimation did not.


We have developed and validated an objective, quantitative assay measuring TILs in breast cancer. Although this work provides analytic validity, future larger studies will be required to prove clinical utility.

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