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1.  Decreased expression of C-erbB-2 and CXCR4 in breast cancer after primary chemotherapy 
Journal of Translational Medicine  2012;10(Suppl 1):S3.
Biological molecular markers such as proto-oncogene erbB-2 (HER-2/neu, c-erbB-2), the CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4), estrogen receptor (ER), Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA), DNA topoisomerase II (topo II), P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) were observed for changes after administration of neochemotherapy and whether these protein expression changes were correlated with response to chemotherapy.
Sixty-four patients with primary breast cancer who had undergone neo-adjuvant chemotherapy were enrolled in the present study. The expressions of C-erbB-2, CXCR4 and ER-α were measured by immunohistochemistry (IHC) on full tissue sections and on tissue microarrays (TMAs). PCNA, TopoII, P-gp and GST were measured by IHC on TMAs. On the other hand, CXCR4, C-erbB-2 and ER-α expressions were detected using western blot analysis to 16 pairs of fresh preoperative core biopsies. The final surgical specimens were obtained from patients with breast carcinoma who received neo-adjuvant chemotherapy and obtained a partial response (PR).
Our data demonstrated that the levels of C-erbB-2, CXCR4 and ER-α in patients decreased after they received neo-adjuvant chemotherapy on full tissue sections and on TMAs. The PCNA level was down-regulated after receiving neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, and no significant change was observed for TopoII, P-gp and GST. The levels of C-erbB-2, CXCR4 and ER-α were also down-regulated after neo-adjuvant chemotherapy was administered, as detected by western blot. In addition, the change expressions of C-erbB-2 and CXCR4 in specimens tended to be correlated with pathological change to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy on full tissue sections and on TMAs in a Pearson chi-square analysis.
As demonstrated in our study, after breast cancer patients were treated with neo-adjuvant systemic therapy, decreased expressions of C-erbB2, ER-α and CXCR4 were observed. Down-regulated expressions of c-erbB-2 and CXCR4 may be a novel mechanism of chemotherapy; the changes of these objective markers may be useful in evaluating the clinical response of neo-adjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3445897  PMID: 23046610
2.  A study of split-dose cisplatin-based neo-adjuvant chemotherapy in muscle-invasive bladder cancer 
Oncology Letters  2012;3(4):855-859.
The aim of this study was to investigate the outcome of patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC) receiving neo-adjuvant chemotherapy (neo-CT) using a cisplatin-based regimen fractionated on days 1 and 8 of a 21-day cycle prior to organ-preservation (chemoradiation) or cystectomy. Patients with stage T2-T4, N0, M0, transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder with a calculated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) ≥40 ml/min were eligible for inclusion in the study. Neo-CT comprised of gemcitabine (1,000 mg/m2 d1, d8, q21) plus cisplatin (35 mg/m2 d1, d8, q21) for four cycles. Following the administration of neo-CT, patients underwent surgery or radiotherapy (RT) with or without concurrent chemotherapy (CRT), based on the response to neo-CT and clinician and patient preference. A total of 23 patients were recruited: 21 males and 2 females; median age, 69 years (range, 49-85); stage T2=11, T3A=7, T3B=5, grade 2=1, grade 3=22. One patient progressed prior to neo-CT. In total, 75 cycles of neo-CT were administered. Treatment was well-tolerated with only one episode of neutropenic sepsis. Three of 22 patients developed early progression and did not receive radical treatment. For the remaining 19 patients, choice of definitive treatment (surgery vs. RT/CRT) was based on response to neo-CT. Eight patients had residual disease at cystoscopy following the completion of neo-CT; six patients underwent surgery and two underwent RT/CRT. A total of 11 patients had a complete response (CR) to neo-CT, nine of whom were treated by RT/CRT, with the remaining two declining radical treatment. Median follow-up for alive patients was 57 months (range, 4.4-68.5). Three-year survival was 37% (95% CI 17-58%) and 5-year survival was 31% (95% CI 15-52%). Neo-CT is effective and well-tolerated in MIBC. This split-dose cisplatin regimen facilitates treatment in an outpatient setting and allows inclusion of patients with compromised GFR.
PMCID: PMC3362399  PMID: 22741006
gemcitabine; neo-adjuvant chemotherapy; split‑dose cisplatin outpatient chemotherapy; bladder cancer
3.  Platinum-based chemotherapy in triple-negative breast cancer: A meta-analysis 
Oncology Letters  2012;5(3):983-991.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) tumors do not express estrogen, progesterone or HER2/neu-receptors. There are no specific treatment guidelines for TNBC patients, however, it has been postulated that their phenotypic and molecular similarity to BRCA1-associated cancers would confer sensitivity to certain cytotoxic agents, including platinum. The aim of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the clinical outcome of breast cancer patients treated with platinum-based chemotherapy who had TNBC compared with those with non-TNBC. Electronic (MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Library databases) and manual searches were conducted throughout December 2011 to identify trials evaluating the use of platinum-based chemotherapy for patients with breast cancer. The methodological quality was assessed in accordance with the QUOROM statement. Seven studies met the eligibility criteria, with a total of 717 patients. Of these patients, 225 were TNBC patients (31%), 492 were non-TNBC patients (69%), 275 received platinum-based neo-adjuvant chemotherapy and 442 had advanced/metastatic breast cancers. The results showed that during neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, the clinical complete response (cCR) rate and the pathological complete response (pCR) rates were significantly higher for the TNBC group compared with the non-TNBC group (OR, 2.68; 95% CI, 1.69–6.57; P=0.03 and OR, 2.89; 95% CI, 1.28, 6.53; P= 0.01, respectively). However, in advanced/metastatic breast cancers, the cCR, partial response (PR) and the disease control rates for the TNBC group were not significantly different compared with the non-TNBC group. The 6-month progression-free survival (PFS) rate for the TNBC group was higher than that of the non-TNBC group in all patients (OR, 1.81; 95% CI, 1.11–2.96; P= 0.02). However, the 1- and 2-year PFS rates were not significantly different (OR, 1.42; 95% CI, 0.69–2.92; P=0.35 and OR, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.35–3.52; P= 0.85, respectively). Furthermore, the PFS rates were not significantly different between the groups in patients with advanced/metastatic breast cancer. In conclusion, platinum-based chemotherapy in the breast cancer patients with TNBC showed an improved short-term efficacy compared with the non-TNBC group during neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, but has not yet been demonstrated to have an improved effect in advanced breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3576281  PMID: 23426861
meta-analysis; triple-negative breast cancer; platinum
4.  How do surgeons decide to refer patients for adjuvant cancer treatment? Protocol for a qualitative study 
Non-small cell lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer are commonly diagnosed cancers in Canada. Patients diagnosed with early-stage non-small cell lung, breast, or colorectal cancer represent potentially curable populations. For these patients, surgery is the primary mode of treatment, with (neo)adjuvant therapies (e.g., chemotherapy, radiotherapy) recommended according to disease stage. Data from our research in Nova Scotia, as well as others’, demonstrate that a substantial proportion of non-small cell lung cancer and colorectal cancer patients, for whom practice guidelines recommend (neo)adjuvant therapy, are not referred for an oncologist consultation. Conversely, surveillance data and clinical experience suggest that breast cancer patients have much higher referral rates. Since surgery is the primary treatment, the surgeon plays a major role in referring patients to oncologists. Thus, an improved understanding of how surgeons make decisions related to oncology services is important to developing strategies to optimize referral rates. Few studies have examined decision making for (neo)adjuvant therapy from the perspective of the cancer surgeon. This study will use qualitative methods to examine decision-making processes related to referral to oncology services for individuals diagnosed with potentially curable non-small cell lung, breast, or colorectal cancer.
A qualitative study will be conducted, guided by the principles of grounded theory. The study design is informed by our ongoing research, as well as a model of access to health services. The method of data collection will be in-depth, semi structured interviews. We will attempt to recruit all lung, breast, and/or colorectal cancer surgeons in Nova Scotia (n ≈ 42), with the aim of interviewing a minimum of 34 surgeons. Interviews will be audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Data will be collected and analyzed concurrently, with two investigators independently coding and analyzing the data. Analysis will involve an inductive, grounded approach using constant comparative analysis.
The primary outcomes will be (1) identification of the patient, surgeon, institutional, and health-system factors that influence surgeons’ decisions to refer non-small cell lung, breast, and colorectal cancer patients to oncology services when consideration for (neo)adjuvant therapy is recommended and (2) identification of potential strategies that could optimize referral to oncology for appropriate individuals.
PMCID: PMC3503754  PMID: 23098262
Cancer; Surgeon; Referral rates; Qualitative methods; Grounded theory
5.  WSG ADAPT – adjuvant dynamic marker-adjusted personalized therapy trial optimizing risk assessment and therapy response prediction in early breast cancer: study protocol for a prospective, multi-center, controlled, non-blinded, randomized, investigator initiated phase II/III trial 
Trials  2013;14:261.
Adjuvant treatment decision-making based on conventional clinical/pathological and prognostic single molecular markers or genomic signatures is a therapeutic area in which over-/under-treatment are still key clinical problems even though substantial and continuous improvement of outcome has been achieved over the past decades. Response to therapy is currently not considered in the decision-making procedure.
ADAPT is one of the first new generation (neo)adjuvant trials dealing with individualization of (neo)adjuvant decision-making in early breast cancer and aims to establish early predictive surrogate markers, e.g., Ki-67, for therapy response under a short induction treatment in order to maximally individualize therapy and avoid unnecessary toxicity by ineffective treatment.
The prospective, multi-center, controlled, non-blinded, randomized, investigator initiated phase II/III ADAPT trial has an innovative “umbrella” protocol design. The “umbrella” is common for all patients, consisting of dynamic testing of early therapy response. ADAPT will recruit 4,936 patients according to their respective breast cancer subtype in four distinct sub-trials at 80 trial sites in Germany; 4,000 patients with hormone receptor positive (HR+) and HER2 negative disease will be included in the ADAPT HR+/HER2- sub-trial, where treatment decision is based on risk assessment and therapy response to induction therapy, and 380 patients will be included in ADAPT HER2+/HR+. A further 220 patients will be included in ADAPT HER2+/HR- and 336 patients will be recruited for ADAPT Triple Negative. These three sub-trials focus on identification of early surrogate markers for therapy success in the neoadjuvant setting. Patients will be allocated to the respective sub-trial according to the result of their diagnostic core biopsy, as reported by local/central pathology for HR and HER2 status.
Recent trials, such as the GeparTrio, have shown that response-guided therapy using clinical response may improve outcome. For chemotherapy or HER2-targeted treatment, pathologic complete response in a neoadjuvant setting is an excellent predictor of outcome. For endocrine therapy, response to short induction treatment – as defined by decrease in tumor cell proliferation – strongly correlates with outcome. ADAPT now aims to combine static prognostic and dynamic predictive markers, focusing not just on single therapeutic targets, but also on general markers of proliferation and cell death. Biomarker analysis will help to optimize selection of subtype-specific treatment.
Trial registration ADAPT Umbrella: NCT01781338; ADAPT HR+/HER2-: NCT01779206; ADAPT HER2+/HR+: NCT01745965; ADAPT HER2+/HR-: NCT01817452; ADAPT TN:NCT01815242.
PMCID: PMC3765940  PMID: 23958221
ADAPT; Biomarker; Early breast cancer; Investigator initiated trial
6.  Overexpression of epithelial growth factor receptor (EGFR) predicts better response to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with triple-negative breast cancer 
Journal of Translational Medicine  2012;10(Suppl 1):S4.
Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) occurs in approximately 10% to 25% of all patients with breast cancer and is associated with poor prognosis. Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy has been reported to produce a higher pathologic complete response (pCR) rate in TNBC. If pCR is achieved, patients with TNBC had a similar survival with non-TNBC patients. The aim of our study was to investigate the protein expression of epithelial growth factor receptor (EGFR) and response to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy and clinical outcome in patients with TNBC compared with non-TNBC.
A total of 198 locally advanced breast cancer patients who received neo-adjuvant chemotherapy were studied. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) was carried out to detect the protein expression of EGFR in tumor samples. Clinical and pathological parameters, pCR rate and survival data were compared between 40 TNBCs and 158 non-TNBCs.
In 198 cases who received neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, significant differences exist in surgical therapy (P=0.005) and pCR rate (P=0.012) between patients with TNBCs and non-TNBCs. Overexpression of EGFR was significantly associated with pCR rate in patients with TNBCs (P < 0.001). Survival analysis revealed that patients with TNBCs had worse DFS and OS than those with non-TNBCs (P = 0.001, P < 0.001 respectively). Furthermore, for patients with non-TNBCs, those who acheived pCR had better DFS and OS than those who acheived RD (both P < 0.001).
Our results suggested that patients with TNBCs had increased pCR rates compared with non-TNBC. Overexpression of EGFR predicted better response to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with TNBCs.
PMCID: PMC3445857  PMID: 23046633
7.  Amplification of LAPTM4B and YWHAZ contributes to chemotherapy resistance and recurrence of breast cancer 
Nature medicine  2010;16(2):214-218.
Post-surgery adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer has effectively reduced metastatic recurrence rates1. However, a significant proportion of women suffer recurrent cancer at distant metastatic sites despite adjuvant treatment. Identification of the genes critical for tumor response to specific chemotherapy drugs is a challenge, but necessary to improve outcomes2. Using integrated genomics, we identified a small number of over-expressed and amplified genes from chromosome 8q22 significantly associated with early disease recurrence despite anthracycline-based adjuvant chemotherapy. The association was confirmed in an analysis of multiple independent cohorts. Two of these genes, the anti-apoptotic gene YWHAZ, and LAPTM4B, a novel lysosomal gene, sensitized tumor cells to anthracyclines when either was depleted by siRNA knockdown and induced drug resistance when either was over-expressed. Over-expression of LAPTM4B resulted in sequestration of drug, delaying its appearance in the nucleus. Over-expression of these two genes was associated with poor tumor response to anthracycline treatment in a neo-adjuvant chemotherapy trial in women with primary breast cancer. Our results suggest that 8q22 amplification and over-expression of LAPTM4B and YWHAZ contribute to de novo chemoresistance to anthracyclines, and are permissive for metastatic recurrence. These two genes may predict anthracycline resistance and influence selection of chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2826790  PMID: 20098429
8.  Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of published literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenomics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: or at
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Ecopnomic Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
To review and synthesize the available evidence regarding the laboratory performance, prognostic value, and predictive value of Oncotype-DX for the target population.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
The target population of this review is women with newly diagnosed early stage (stage I–IIIa) invasive breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor (ER) positive and/or progesterone-receptor (PR) positive. Much of this review, however, is relevant for women with early stage (I and II) invasive breast cancer that is specifically ER positive, lymph node (LN) negative and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2/neu) negative. This refined population represents an estimated incident population of 3,315 new breast cancers in Ontario (according to 2007 data). Currently it is estimated that only 15% of these women will develop a distant metastasis at 10 years; however, a far great proportion currently receive adjuvant chemotherapy, suggesting that more women are being treated with chemotherapy than can benefit. There is therefore a need to develop better prognostic and predictive tools to improve the selection of women that may benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.
Technology of Concern
The Oncotype-DX Breast Cancer Assay (Genomic Health, Redwood City, CA) quantifies gene expression for 21 genes in breast cancer tissue by performing reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumour blocks that are obtained during initial surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy, or core biopsy) of women with early breast cancer that is newly diagnosed. The panel of 21 genes include genes associated with tumour proliferation and invasion, as well as other genes related to HER-2/neu expression, ER expression, and progesterone receptor (PR) expression.
Research Questions
What is the laboratory performance of Oncotype-DX?
How reliable is Oncotype-DX (i.e., how repeatable and reproducible is Oncotype-DX)?
How often does Oncotype-DX fail to give a useable result?
What is the prognostic value of Oncotype-DX?*
Is Oncotype-DX recurrence score associated with the risk of distant recurrence or death due to any cause in women with early breast cancer receiving tamoxifen?
What is the predictive value of Oncotype-DX?*
Does Oncoytpe-DX recurrence score predict significant benefit in terms of improvements in 10-year distant recurrence or death due to any cause for women receiving tamoxifen plus chemotherapy in comparison to women receiving tamoxifen alone?
How does Oncotype-DX compare to other known predictors of risk such as Adjuvant! Online?
How does Oncotype-DX impact patient quality of life and clinical/patient decision-making?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on March 19th, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1st, 2006 to March 19th, 2010. A starting search date of January 1st, 2006 was because a comprehensive systematic review of Oncotype-DX was identified in preliminary literature searching. This systematic review, by Marchionni et al. (2008), included literature up to January 1st, 2007. All studies identified in the review by Marchionni et al. as well as those identified in updated literature searching were used to form the evidentiary base of this review. The quality of the overall body of evidence was identified as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Inclusion Criteria
Any observational trial, controlled clinical trial, randomized controlled trial (RCT), meta-analysis or systematic review that reported on the laboratory performance, prognostic value and/or predictive value of Oncotype-DX testing, or other outcome relevant to the Key Questions, specific to the target population was included.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that did not report original data or original data analysis,
Studies published in a language other than English,
Studies reported only in abstract or as poster presentations (such publications were not sought nor included in this review since the MAS does not generally consider evidence that is not subject to peer review nor does the MAS consider evidence that lacks detailed description of methodology).
Outcomes of Interest
Outcomes of interest varied depending on the Key Question. For the Key Questions of prognostic and predictive value (Key Questions #2 and #3), the prospectively defined primary outcome was risk of 10-year distant recurrence. The prospectively defined secondary outcome was 10-year death due to any cause (i.e., overall survival). All additional outcomes such as risk of locoregional recurrence or disease-free survival (DFS) were not prospectively determined for this review but were reported as presented in included trials; these outcomes are referenced as tertiary outcomes in this review. Outcomes for other Key Questions (i.e., Key Questions #1, #4 and #5) were not prospectively defined due to the variability in endpoints relevant for these questions.
Summary of Findings
A total of 26 studies were included. Of these 26 studies, only five studies were relevant to the primary questions of this review (Key Questions #2 and #3). The following conclusions were drawn from the entire body of evidence:
There is a lack of external validation to support the reliability of Oncotype-DX; however, the current available evidence derived from internal industry validation studies suggests that Oncotype-DX is reliable (i.e., Oncotype-DX is repeatable and reproducible).
Current available evidence suggests a moderate failure rate of Oncotype-DX testing; however, the failure rate observed across clinical trials included in this review is likely inflated; the current Ontario experience suggests an acceptably lower rate of test failure.
In women with newly diagnosed early breast cancer (stage I–II) that is estrogen-receptor positive and/or progesterone-receptor positive and lymph-node negative:
There is low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has prognostic value in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen or anastrozole (the latter for postmenopausal women only),
There is very low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX can predict which women will benefit from adjuvant CMF/MF chemotherapy in women being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
In postmenopausal women with newly diagnosed early breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor positive and/or progesterone-receptor positive and lymph-node positive:
There is low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has limited prognostic value in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen or anastrozole,
There is very low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has limited predictive value for predicting which women will benefit from adjuvant CAF chemotherapy in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
There are methodological and statistical limitations that affect both the generalizability of the current available evidence, as well as the magnitude and statistical strength of the observed effect sizes; in particular:
Of the major predictive trials, Oncotype-DX scores were only produced for a small subset of women (<40% of the original randomized population) potentially disabling the effects of treatment randomization and opening the possibility of selection bias;
Data is not specific to HER-2/neu-negative women;
There were limitations with multivariate statistical analyses.
Additional trials of observational design may provide further validation of the prognostic and predictive value of Oncotype-DX; however, it is unlikely that prospective or randomized data will become available in the near future due to ethical, time and resource considerations.
There is currently insufficient evidence investigating how Oncoytpe-DX compares to other known prognostic estimators of risk, such as Adjuvant! Online, and there is insufficient evidence investigating how Oncotype-DX would impact clinician/patient decision-making in a setting generalizable to Ontario.
PMCID: PMC3382301  PMID: 23074401
9.  Subtyping of Breast Cancer by Immunohistochemistry to Investigate a Relationship between Subtype and Short and Long Term Survival: A Collaborative Analysis of Data for 10,159 Cases from 12 Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000279.
Paul Pharoah and colleagues evaluate the prognostic significance of immunohistochemical subtype classification in more than 10,000 breast cancer cases with early disease, and examine the influence of a patient's survival time on the prediction of future survival.
Immunohistochemical markers are often used to classify breast cancer into subtypes that are biologically distinct and behave differently. The aim of this study was to estimate mortality for patients with the major subtypes of breast cancer as classified using five immunohistochemical markers, to investigate patterns of mortality over time, and to test for heterogeneity by subtype.
Methods and Findings
We pooled data from more than 10,000 cases of invasive breast cancer from 12 studies that had collected information on hormone receptor status, human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) status, and at least one basal marker (cytokeratin [CK]5/6 or epidermal growth factor receptor [EGFR]) together with survival time data. Tumours were classified as luminal and nonluminal tumours according to hormone receptor expression. These two groups were further subdivided according to expression of HER2, and finally, the luminal and nonluminal HER2-negative tumours were categorised according to expression of basal markers. Changes in mortality rates over time differed by subtype. In women with luminal HER2-negative subtypes, mortality rates were constant over time, whereas mortality rates associated with the luminal HER2-positive and nonluminal subtypes tended to peak within 5 y of diagnosis and then decline over time. In the first 5 y after diagnosis the nonluminal tumours were associated with a poorer prognosis, but over longer follow-up times the prognosis was poorer in the luminal subtypes, with the worst prognosis at 15 y being in the luminal HER2-positive tumours. Basal marker expression distinguished the HER2-negative luminal and nonluminal tumours into different subtypes. These patterns were independent of any systemic adjuvant therapy.
The six subtypes of breast cancer defined by expression of five markers show distinct behaviours with important differences in short term and long term prognosis. Application of these markers in the clinical setting could have the potential to improve the targeting of adjuvant chemotherapy to those most likely to benefit. The different patterns of mortality over time also suggest important biological differences between the subtypes that may result in differences in response to specific therapies, and that stratification of breast cancers by clinically relevant subtypes in clinical trials is urgently required.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Each year, more than one million women discover they have breast cancer. Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast's milk-producing glands or in the tubes (ducts) that take milk to the nipples acquire genetic changes that allow them to divide uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). The uncontrolled cell division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual breast examination. Breast cancer is treated by surgical removal of the lump or, if the cancer has started to spread, by removal of the whole breast (mastectomy). Surgery is usually followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy. These “adjuvant” therapies are designed to kill any remaining cancer cells but can make women very ill. Generally speaking, the outlook (prognosis) for women with breast cancer is good. In the United States, for example, nearly 90% of affected women are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because there are several types of cells in the milk ducts and glands, there are several subtypes of breast cancer. Luminal tumors, for example, begin in the cells that line the ducts and glands and usually grow slowly; basal-type tumors arise in deeper layers of the ducts and glands and tend to grow quickly. Clinicians need to distinguish between different breast cancer subtypes so that they can give women a realistic prognosis and can give adjuvant treatments to those women who are most likely to benefit. One way to distinguish between different subtypes is to stain breast cancer samples using antibodies (immune system proteins) that recognize particular proteins (antigens). This “immunohistochemical” approach can identify several breast cancer subtypes but its prognostic value and the best way to classify breast tumors remains unclear. In this study, the researchers investigate the survival over time of women with six major subtypes of breast cancer classified using five immunohistochemical markers: the estrogen receptor and the progesterone receptor (two hormone receptors expressed by luminal cells), the human epidermal growth factors receptor-2 (HER2, a protein marker used to select specific adjuvant therapies), and CK5/6 and EGFR (proteins expressed by basal cells).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers pooled data on survival time and on the expression of the five immunohistochemical markers from more than 10,000 cases of breast cancer from 12 studies. They then divided the tumors into six subtypes on the basis of their marker expression: luminal (hormone receptor-positive), HER2-positive tumors; luminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-positive tumors; luminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-negative tumors; nonluminal (hormone receptor-negative), HER2-positive tumors; nonluminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-positive tumors; and nonluminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-negative tumors. In the first five years after diagnosis, women with nonluminal tumor subtypes had the worst prognosis but at 15 years after diagnosis, women with luminal HER2-positive tumors had the worst prognosis. Furthermore, death rates (the percentage of affected women dying each year) differed by subtype over time. Thus, women with the two luminal HER2-negative subtypes were as likely to die soon after diagnosis as at later times whereas the death rates associated with nonluminal subtypes peaked within five years of diagnosis and then declined.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings indicate that the six subtypes of breast cancer defined by the expression of five immunohistochemical markers have distinct biological characteristics that are associated with important differences in short-term and long-term outcomes. Because different laboratories measured the immunohistochemical markers using different methods, it is possible that some of the tumors included in this study were misclassified. However, the finding of clear differences in the behavior of the immunochemically classified subtypes suggests that the use of the five markers for tumor classification might be robust enough for routine clinical practice. The application of these markers in the clinical setting, suggest the researchers, could improve the targeting of adjuvant therapies to those women most likely to benefit. Furthermore, note the researchers, these findings strongly suggest that subtype-specific responses should be evaluated in future clinical trials of treatments for breast cancer.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Stefan Ambs
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
The American Cancer Society has a detailed guide to breast cancer, which includes information on the immunochemical classification of breast cancer subtypes
The UK charities MacMillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK also provide detailed information about breast cancer
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information for patients about breast cancer; Medline Plus provides links to many other breast cancer resources (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2876119  PMID: 20520800
10.  Effect of PREDICT on chemotherapy/trastuzumab recommendations in HER2-positive patients with early-stage breast cancer 
Oncology Letters  2014;8(6):2757-2761.
PREDICT is an online prognostication tool for early-stage breast cancer, which incorporates human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) status and stratifies absolute treatment benefits for hormone therapy, chemotherapy and trastuzumab. The present study compared historical multidisciplinary team (MDT) decisions regarding adjuvant treatment with PREDICT estimates, to determine whether certain patients are being over- or undertreated, particularly when stratified by age and oestrogen-receptor (ER) status. HER2-positive early-stage breast cancer cases over a five-year period at the Cambridge Breast Unit (Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK) were retrospectively reviewed. Patients receiving neo-adjuvant therapy were excluded. Adjuvant chemotherapy/trastuzumab recommendations based on PREDICT (<3%, no benefit; 3–5%, discuss treatment; and >5%, recommend treatment) were compared with actual MDT decisions. In total, 109 eligible patients were identified. The average age at diagnosis was 59.6 years, with 21 patients older than 70 years (19%). Four patients were predicted to gain an absolute benefit of >5% from chemotherapy/ trastuzumab, but were not offered treatment (all >70 years). Amongst the 19 patients aged >70 years predicted to benefit >3%, six were not offered treatment (32%). In the patients aged <69 years, there was evidence of overtreatment with adjuvant chemotherapy/trastuzumab in 8 out of 12 cases with <3% benefit using PREDICT. For all 20 patients with ER-negative tumours, the MDT and PREDICT decisions correlated, whilst for ER-positive cases, more than half (8 out of 14) were offered treatment despite a <3% predicted benefit. PREDICT can aid decision-making in HER2-positive early-stage breast cancer by identifying older patients at risk of undertreatment with chemotherapy/trastuzumab, and by reducing the overtreatment of patients with little predicted benefit, particularly in ER-positive disease.
PMCID: PMC4214477  PMID: 25364461
breast cancer; management; prognostic factors; erbB-2 receptor; online predictive tools; age
11.  Update on Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Early Breast Cancer 
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide. Although most women are diagnosed with early breast cancer, a substantial number recur due to persistent micro-metastatic disease. Systemic adjuvant chemotherapy improves outcomes and has advanced from first-generation regimens to modern dose-dense combinations. Although chemotherapy is the cornerstone of adjuvant therapy, new biomarkers are identifying patients who can forego such treatment. Neo-adjuvant therapy is a promising platform for drug development, but investigators should recognize the limitations of surrogate endpoints and clinical trials. Previous decades have focused on discovering, developing, and intensifying adjuvant chemotherapy. Future efforts should focus on customizing therapy and reducing chemotherapy for patients unlikely to benefit. In some cases, it may be possible to replace chemotherapy with treatments directed at specific genetic or molecular breast cancer subtypes. Yet, we anticipate that chemotherapy will remain a critical component of adjuvant therapy for years to come.
PMCID: PMC4197909  PMID: 25336961
neoadjuvant; toxicity; pathologic response; metastases
12.  Regional variation in breast cancer treatment in the Netherlands and the role of external peer review: a cohort study comprising 63,516 women 
BMC Cancer  2014;14(1):596.
Treatment variation is an important issue in health care provision. An external peer review programme for multidisciplinary cancer care was introduced in 1994 in the Netherlands to improve the multidisciplinary organisation of cancer care in hospitals.
So far the clinical impact of external quality assessment programmes such as external peer review and accreditation remains unclear. Our objective was to examine the degree of variation in treatment patterns and the possible effect of external peer review for multidisciplinary cancer care for breast cancer patients.
Patients with breast cancer were included from 23 hospitals from two ‘intervention regions’ with the longest experience with the programme and 7 hospitals that never participated (control group). Data on tumour and treatment characteristics were retrieved from the Netherlands Cancer Registry. Treatment modalities investigated were: the completeness of breast conserving therapy, introduction of the sentinel node biopsy, radiotherapy after breast conserving surgery for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), adjuvant radiotherapy for locally advanced breast cancer (T3/M0 or any T,N2-3/M0), adjuvant chemotherapy for early stage breast cancer (T1-2/N+/M0) and neo-adjuvant chemotherapy for T4/M0 breast cancer. Hospitals from the two intervention regions were dichotomised based on their implementation proportion (IP) of recommendations from the final reports of each peer review (high IP vs. low IP). This was regarded as a measure of how well a hospital participated in the programme.
63,516 female breast cancer patients were included (1990-2010). Variation in treatment patterns was observed between the intervention regions and control group. Multidisciplinary treatment patterns were not consistently better for patients from hospitals with a high IP.
There is no relationship between the external peer review programme for multidisciplinary cancer care and multidisciplinary treatment patterns for breast cancer patients. Regional factors seem to exert a stronger effect on treatment patterns than hospital participation in external peer review.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-596) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4147167  PMID: 25129126
Breast neoplasms; Cohort studies; Healthcare quality assessment; Quality improvement; Peer review
13.  Bisphosphonates, Serms and Rankl: Expanding Applications in Osteo-Oncology 
Over the past decade, osteoclast-directed therapies have been increasingly applied in patients with cancer bone disease. The bone is a common metastatic site for many malignancies, notably carcinomas. It is held that complex bidirectional communication between bone cells and cancer cells activates a vicious circle that eventually leads to the clinical appearance of metastases and relevant morbidity. Excess osteoclast-mediated bone resorption plays an important pathogenetic role, even in metastases referred to as osteoblastic in nature (typically those from prostate cancer). As a consequence, bone architecture is altered, resistance to mechanical stress is lowered, and fractures may occur. Besides degrading the bone matrix, osteoclasts might also play a role in releasing dormant cancer cells from bone. Such a pro-metastatic function would fit well with the observations of reduced presence of disseminated tumour cells in bone marrow of breast cancer patients treated with the aminobisphosphonate zoledronic acid, a potent anti-osteoclastic agent. Pertinently too, much attention has been paid to the results of the ABCSG-12 study, which showed an increased disease-free survival in premenopausal women with oestrogen receptor-positive early breast cancer who received zoledronic acid additive to their adjuvant endocrine therapy. Bisphosphonates (BPs) are synthetic derivatives of inorganic pyrophosphate. After administration, BPs concentrate at skeletal sites where active remodelling takes place. They are incorporated into osteoclasts under the acidic conditions of the resorbing lacunae. Nitrogen-containing BPs interfere with the mevalonate pathway and hence disrupt the protein trafficking essential for cytoskeleton integrity, cell function and survival. The action on the mevalonate pathway has also been credited, together with other mechanisms, with a role in subserving anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic effects of amino-BPs directly on cancer cells. Such effects could complement those of chemotherapeutic agents. Interestingly, the results of the neo-adjuvant chemotherapy subset of the AZURE study have shown that adding zoledronic acid has a significant beneficial effect on the residual tumour size at surgery and on the pathological response. The anti-resorptive, anti-osteoporotic effects of BPs across a broad spectrum of bone diseases, first of all primary osteoporosis, provide the rationale for their use in preventing and treating cancer treatment-induced bone loss. The same holds true for SERMs in postmenopausal patients with breast cancer given aromatase inhibitors, and for de-nosumab in patients with prostate cancer given androgen-deprivation medication. The basic concept of SERMs is that they act as oestrogen agonists on bone cells, but have an antagonist or neutral action on oestrogen-sensitive reproductive tissues, including breast. Indeed, the first-generation SERM tamoxifen is used worldwide for its anti-oestrogenic properties in breast cancer. The second-generation SERM raloxifene and the third-generation SERM bazodoxifene, on the other hand, have as a primary (and approved) application the prevention and treatment of post-menopausal osteoporosis. SERMs display a structural heterogeneity, variable interactions with the oestrogen receptors (ER-α, ER-β) and subsequent conformational changes, and may have differential effects depending on the microenvironment in which they act. Therefore, the efficacy and safety of SERMs in any oncological setting need to be evaluated individually. Since a vast body of literature supports the concept that RANKL, a member of TNF family, functions as a major effector molecule of osteoclast-mediated bone resorption, there is a rationale for developing RANKL inhibition as a targeted therapy in bone diseases. Denosumab is a fully human monoclonal Ig G2 antibody which mimics the natural bone-protecting action of the decoy receptor of RANKL, osteoprotegerin. Importantly, denosumab binds RANKL with high affinity, but not other ligands of the TNF family, such as TRAIL. To date, denosumab administered subcutaneously at 6-month intervals has been found to be beneficial in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, as well as in men with androgen deprivation-induced low bone mass. Denosumab was well tolerated; its rapid yet sustained anti-resorptive action has been consistently documented. This action has already been confirmed in patients with neoplastic bone involvement, including lytic metastases from carcinomas and multiple myeloma. Accumulating evidence supports the view that denosumab will be an important additional option for individualising therapy in patients with cancer bone disease.
PMCID: PMC3213783
14.  Is drug-induced toxicity a good predictor of response to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer? -A prospective clinical study 
BMC Cancer  2004;4:48.
Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy is an integral part of multi-modality approach in the management of locally advanced breast cancer and it is vital to predict the response in order to tailor the regime for a patient. The common final pathway in the tumor cell death is believed to be apoptosis or programmed cell death and chemotherapeutic drugs like other DNA-damaging agents act on rapidly multiplying cells including both the tumor and the normal cells by following the same common final pathway. This could account for both the toxic effects and the response. Absence or decreased apoptosis has been found to be associated with chemo resistance. The change in expression of apoptotic markers (Bcl-2 and Bax proteins) brought about by various chemotherapeutic regimens is being used to identify drug resistance in the tumor cells. A prospective clinical study was conducted to assess whether chemotherapy induced toxic effects could serve as reliable predictors of apoptosis or response to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with locally advanced breast cancer.
50 cases of locally advanced breast cancer after complete routine and metastatic work up were subjected to trucut biopsy and the tissue evaluated immunohistochemically for apoptotic markers (bcl-2/bax ratio). Three cycles of Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy using FAC regime (5-fluorouracil, adriamycin, cyclophosphamide) were given at three weekly intervals and patients assessed for clinical response as well as toxicity after each cycle. Modified radical mastectomy was performed in all patients three weeks after the last cycle and the specimen were re-evaluated for any change in the bcl-2/bax ratio. The clinical response, immunohistochemical response and the drug-induced toxicity were correlated and compared.
Descriptive studies were performed with SPSS version 10 and the significance of response was assessed using paired t-test. Significance of correlation between various variables was assessed using chi-square test and coefficient of correlation calculated by Pearson correlation coefficient.
There was a statistically significant correlation observed between clinical, immunohistochemical response (bcl-2/bax ratio) and the drug-induced toxicity.
Responders also had significant toxicity while non-responders did not show significant toxicity following neoadjuvant chemotherapy. The chemotherapy-induced toxicity was observed to be a cost effective and reliable predictor of response to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC514705  PMID: 15310398
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy; response; drug toxicity; apoptosis
15.  Inflammatory breast cancer: is it really a separate entity? 
ecancermedicalscience  2012;6:250.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most aggressive form of primary breast carcinoma and is associated with a dismal outcome despite the availability of multi-modality treatment options.
Patients and methods
This is a prospective case control study comparing two groups of newly diagnosed patients; the first with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) and the second with locally advanced non inflammatory breast cancer (LABC). In both groups MIB1, ER, PR, Her2neu were assessed. Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy consisted of four cycles of FEC100 followed by modified radical mastectomy according to clinical response, postoperative chemotherapy with two courses of the same regimen followed by radiotherapy. Tamoxifen 20 mg po daily for 5 years in ER and/or PR positive tumours, starting after the completion of radiotherapy. Primary end points were a) comparison of MIB-1 score in both groups, b) comparison of clinical and pathological responses in both groups. Secondary endpoints were comparison of progression free survival and overall survival.
From a total of 42 patients, 21 were stage III B (T4d, N0-2 M0) IBC and 21 were stage III B (T4a-c, N0-2, M0) LABC. Patients in the age range from 28 to 68 were included and followed from November 2007 until February 2010 with a median follow-up period of 22.5 months. Toxicity of both arms, mainly haematologic, nausea and vomiting, was in general acceptable with no treatment-related deaths. Of the patients with IBC 81.3% had a high MIB-1 score as compared with 43.8% of patients with LABC (P-value = 0.028). Objective clinical response to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy in the IBC arm was 57.1% (4.8% complete response (CR)) as compared with 81% (9.5% CR) in LABC (P-value = 0.09). Overall pathological response (complete pathological response (pCR)+partial pathological response (pPR)) was 35.3% in the IBC arm compared with 40% in LABC arm (P-value = 0.618). One year, 2 year and median progression free survival (PFS) were 55.87%, 37.71% and 21.7 months, respectively in the IBC arm compared with 85.71%, 66.67% in LABC (median PFS was not reached) (P-value = 0.072). One and 2 year overall survival (OS) were 69.82% and 51.20%, respectively in the IBC arm compared with 95.24% and 95.24% in LABC arm (P-value = 0.0038).
IBC should be considered as a separate entity. A high MIB-1 score is a potential molecular marker for IBC.
PMCID: PMC3345939  PMID: 22570674
16.  Phase 2 study of eribulin mesylate as first-line therapy for locally recurrent or metastatic human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative breast cancer 
Eribulin mesylate, a novel non-taxane microtubule dynamics inhibitor, is approved for treatment of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) in patients who have previously received at least 2 chemotherapeutic regimens for MBC that should have included an anthracycline and a taxane in the adjuvant or metastatic setting. This phase 2 study evaluated efficacy and safety of eribulin as first-line therapy for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative (HER2-negative) MBC. Patients with measurable HER2-negative locally recurrent breast cancer or MBC with ≥12 months since prior neoadjuvant or adjuvant (neo/adjuvant) chemotherapy received eribulin mesylate 1.4 mg/m2 IV on days 1 and 8 of each 3-week cycle. Endpoints included objective response rate (ORR) per RECIST v1.1 (primary), safety, progression-free survival (PFS), clinical benefit rate (ORR + stable disease ≥6 months; CBR), and duration of response (DOR). Fifty-six patients were enrolled and received eribulin; 38 (68 %) had prior neo/adjuvant therapy, including 33 who had anthracycline and/or taxane-containing chemotherapy; 41 (73 %) had estrogen receptor-positive disease, and 12 (21 %) had estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative (triple-negative) disease. Patients received a median of 7 cycles (range 1–43); 6 (11 %) received treatment for ≥12 months. ORR was 29 % (95 % CI 17.3–42.2), CBR was 52 %, and median DOR was 5.8 months. Median PFS was 6.8 months. Thirty-six patients (64 %) had grade 3/4 treatment-related adverse events; most common were neutropenia (50 %), leukopenia (21 %), and peripheral neuropathy (21 %). These results demonstrate that eribulin has substantial antitumor activity as first-line treatment for HER2-negative MBC with acceptable safety.
PMCID: PMC4085472  PMID: 24699910
Metastatic breast cancer; HER2-negative breast cancer; Triple-negative breast cancer; Eribulin; Progression-free survival
17.  Clinical and immunological assessment in breast cancer patients receiving anticancer therapy and bovine dialyzable leukocyte extract as an adjuvant 
Dialyzable leukocyte extract (DLE) is one of the immunological agents used as an adjuvant in cancer therapy; it has been associated with improved quality of life during cancer chemotherapy. Based on these previous findings and on the observed clinical benefits attributed to DLE in other types of cancer, we investigated its clinical and immunological effects as a therapy adjuvant on breast cancer patients who received only chemotherapy, as compared to patients administered bovine DLE (bDLE) as an adjuvant. This study included 43 breast cancer patients who were about to begin chemotherapy. This group was divided as follows: 25 received chemotherapy and bDLE as an adjuvant therapy, and 18 received only chemotherapy without the adjuvant. All patient clinical and immunological responses were monitored. Among patients in the group that received bDLE as adjuvant, 60% showed a complete response, 32% showed a partial response and 8% did not respond. By contrast, in the group without the adjuvant, 39% showed a complete response, 50% displayed a partial response and 11% were non-responders. In addition, bDLE treatment in combination with chemotherapy resulted in the enhancement of the Karnofsky performance scale during chemotherapy. Even though patients underwent several cycles of chemotherapy without bDLE, the lymphocyte population dropped to below the reference value. On the other hand, in patients with bDLE as adjuvant, the CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes and the B lymphocytes were maintained within the median range of the reference value. The number of natural killer cells also increased after chemotherapy treatment with bDLE as an adjuvant. In conclusion, bDLE treatment contributes to significant immunological recovery in patients that have undergone heavy chemotherapy, increasing the clinical response and quality of life during chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3445885  PMID: 22993557
dialyzable leukocyte extract; immunotherapy agent; clinical response; Karnofsky performance scale
18.  DEAR1 Is a Dominant Regulator of Acinar Morphogenesis and an Independent Predictor of Local Recurrence-Free Survival in Early-Onset Breast Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000068.
Ann Killary and colleagues describe a new gene that is genetically altered in breast tumors, and that may provide a new breast cancer prognostic marker.
Breast cancer in young women tends to have a natural history of aggressive disease for which rates of recurrence are higher than in breast cancers detected later in life. Little is known about the genetic pathways that underlie early-onset breast cancer. Here we report the discovery of DEAR1 (ductal epithelium–associated RING Chromosome 1), a novel gene encoding a member of the TRIM (tripartite motif) subfamily of RING finger proteins, and provide evidence for its role as a dominant regulator of acinar morphogenesis in the mammary gland and as an independent predictor of local recurrence-free survival in early-onset breast cancer.
Methods and Findings
Suppression subtractive hybridization identified DEAR1 as a novel gene mapping to a region of high-frequency loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in a number of histologically diverse human cancers within Chromosome 1p35.1. In the breast epithelium, DEAR1 expression is limited to the ductal and glandular epithelium and is down-regulated in transition to ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early histologic stage in breast tumorigenesis. DEAR1 missense mutations and homozygous deletion (HD) were discovered in breast cancer cell lines and tumor samples. Introduction of the DEAR1 wild type and not the missense mutant alleles to complement a mutation in a breast cancer cell line, derived from a 36-year-old female with invasive breast cancer, initiated acinar morphogenesis in three-dimensional (3D) basement membrane culture and restored tissue architecture reminiscent of normal acinar structures in the mammary gland in vivo. Stable knockdown of DEAR1 in immortalized human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) recapitulated the growth in 3D culture of breast cancer cell lines containing mutated DEAR1, in that shDEAR1 clones demonstrated disruption of tissue architecture, loss of apical basal polarity, diffuse apoptosis, and failure of lumen formation. Furthermore, immunohistochemical staining of a tissue microarray from a cohort of 123 young female breast cancer patients with a 20-year follow-up indicated that in early-onset breast cancer, DEAR1 expression serves as an independent predictor of local recurrence-free survival and correlates significantly with strong family history of breast cancer and the triple-negative phenotype (ER−, PR−, HER-2−) of breast cancers with poor prognosis.
Our data provide compelling evidence for the genetic alteration and loss of expression of DEAR1 in breast cancer, for the functional role of DEAR1 in the dominant regulation of acinar morphogenesis in 3D culture, and for the potential utility of an immunohistochemical assay for DEAR1 expression as an independent prognostic marker for stratification of early-onset disease.
Editors' Summary
Each year, more than one million women discover that they have breast cancer. This type of cancer begins when cells in the breast that line the milk-producing glands or the tubes that take the milk to the nipples (glandular and ductal epithelial cells, respectively) acquire genetic changes that allow them to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). The uncontrolled division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual breast examination. Breast cancer is treated by surgical removal of the lump or, if the cancer has started to spread, by removal of the whole breast (mastectomy). Surgery is usually followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy. These “adjuvant” therapies are designed to kill any remaining cancer cells but can make patients very ill. Generally speaking, the outlook for women with breast cancer is good. In the US, for example, nearly 90% of affected women are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although breast cancer is usually diagnosed in women in their 50s or 60s, some women develop breast cancer much earlier. In these women, the disease is often very aggressive. Compared to older women, young women with breast cancer have a lower overall survival rate and their cancer is more likely to recur locally or to metastasize. It would be useful to be able to recognize those younger women at the greatest risk of cancer recurrence so that they could be offered intensive surveillance and adjuvant therapy; those women at a lower risk could have gentler treatments. To achieve this type of “stratification,” the genetic changes that underlie breast cancer in young women need to be identified. In this study, the researchers discover a gene that is genetically altered (by mutations or deletion) in early-onset breast cancer and then investigate whether its expression can predict outcomes in women with this disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used “suppression subtractive hybridization” to identify a new gene in a region of human Chromosome 1 where loss of heterozygosity (LOH; a genetic alteration associated with cancer development) frequently occurs. They called the gene DEAR1 (ductal epithelium-associated RING Chromosome 1) to indicate that it is expressed in ductal and glandular epithelial cells and encodes a “RING finger” protein (specifically, a subtype called a TRIM protein; RING finger proteins such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been implicated in early cancer development and in a large fraction of inherited breast cancers). DEAR1 expression was reduced or lost in several ductal carcinomas in situ (a local abnormality that can develop into breast cancer) and advanced breast cancers, the researchers report. Furthermore, many breast tumors carried DEAR1 missense mutations (genetic changes that interfere with the normal function of the DEAR1 protein) or had lost both copies of DEAR1 (the human genome contains two copies of most genes). To determine the function of DEAR1, the researchers replaced a normal copy of DEAR1 into a breast cancer cell that had a mutation in DEAR1. They then examined the growth of these genetically manipulated cells in special three-dimensional cultures. The breast cancer cells without DEAR1 grew rapidly without an organized structure while the breast cancer cells containing the introduced copy of DEAR1 formed structures that resembled normal breast acini (sac-like structures that secrete milk). In normal human mammary epithelial cells, the researchers silenced DEAR1 expression and also showed that without DEAR1, the normal mammary cells lost their ability to form proper acini. Finally, the researchers report that DEAR1 expression (detected “immunohistochemically”) was frequently lost in women who had had early-onset breast cancer and that the loss of DEAR1 expression correlated with reduced local recurrence-free survival, a strong family history of breast cancer and with a breast cancer subtype that has a poor outcome.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that genetic alteration and loss of expression of DEAR1 are common in breast cancer. Although laboratory experiments may not necessarily reflect what happens in people, the results from the three-dimensional culture of breast epithelial cells suggest that DEAR1 may regulate the normal acinar structure of the breast. Consequently, loss of DEAR1 expression could be an early event in breast cancer development. Most importantly, the correlation between DEAR1 expression and both local recurrence in early-onset breast cancer and a breast cancer subtype with a poor outcome suggests that it might be possible to use DEAR1 expression to identify women with early-onset breast cancer who have an increased risk of local recurrence so that they get the most appropriate treatment for their cancer.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Senthil Muthuswamy
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of breast cancer, including information on genetic alterations in breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information for patients about breast cancer; MedlinePlus also provides links to many other breast cancer resources (in English and Spanish)
The UK charities Cancerbackup (now merged with MacMillan Cancer Support) and Cancer Research UK also provide detailed information about breast cancer
PMCID: PMC2673042  PMID: 19536326
19.  Randomized Trial Using Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Agonist Triptorelin for the Preservation of Ovarian Function During (Neo)Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;30(5):533-538.
Chemotherapy-induced amenorrhea is a serious concern for women undergoing cancer therapy. This prospective randomized trial evaluated the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analog triptorelin to preserve ovarian function in women treated with chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer.
Patients and Methods
Premenopausal women age 44 years or younger were randomly assigned to receive either triptorelin or no triptorelin during (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy and were further stratified by age (< 35, 35 to 39, > 39 years), estrogen receptor status, and chemotherapy regimen. Objectives included the resumption of menses and serial monitoring of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and inhibin A and B levels.
Targeted for 124 patients with a planned 5-year follow-up, the trial was stopped for futility after 49 patients were enrolled (median age, 39 years; range, 21 to 43 years); 47 patients were treated according to assigned groups with four cycles of adriamycin plus cyclophosphamide alone or followed by four cycles of paclitaxel or six cycles of fluorouracil, epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide. Menstruation resumed in 19 (90%) of 21 patients in the control group and in 23 (88%) of 26 in the triptorelin group (P= .36). Menses returned after a median of 5.8 months (range, 1 to 19 months) after completion of chemotherapy in the triptorelin versus 5.0 months (range, 0 to 28 months) in the control arm (P= .58). Two patients (age 26 and 35 years at random assignment) in the control group had spontaneous pregnancies with term deliveries. FSH and inhibin B levels correlated with menstrual status.
When stratified for age, estrogen receptor status, and treatment regimen, amenorrhea rates on triptorelin were comparable to those seen in the control group.
PMCID: PMC3295555  PMID: 22231041
20.  Adjuvant Immunotherapy of Melanoma, and Development of New Approaches Using the Neo- Adjuvant Approach in Melanoma 
Clinics in dermatology  2013;31(3):237-250.
Melanoma is the third most common skin cancer but the leading cause of death from cutaneous malignancies. While early-stage disease is frequently cured by surgical resection with excellent long-term survival, patients with deeper primary lesions (AJCC stage IIB-C) and those with microscopic (IIIA) or clinically evident regional lymph node or in-transit metastases (IIIB-C) have an increased risk of relapse and death–the latter approaching 70% or more at 5 years.
In patients at high-risk of recurrence/metastases, adjuvant therapy with high-dose interferon alpha-2b (HDI) following definitive surgical resection has been shown to improve relapse free and overall survival. Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy have offered the prospect to improve regional recurrence risk and overall survival in several solid tumors. The advent of effective new molecularly targeted therapies for metastatic disease and new immunotherapies that overcome checkpoints of immune response have augmented the range of new options that are in current trial evaluation to determine their role as potential adjuvant therapies, alone and in combination with one another, and the established modality of IFNα. The differential characteristics of the host immune response between early and advanced melanoma provide a strong mechanistic rationale for the use of neo-adjuvant immunotherapeutic approaches in melanoma, and the opportunity to evaluate the mechanism of action suggest neoadjuvant trial evaluation for each of the new candidate agents and combinations of interest. Several neo-adjuvant trials have been conducted in the phase II setting, which have illuminated the mechanism of IFNα, as well as providing insight to the effects of anti-CTLA4 blocking antibodies. These agents (anti-CTLA4 blocking antibody ipilimumab [BMS], and BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib [Genentech]) are likely to be followed by other immunotherapies that may overcome the PD-1 checkpoint (anti-PD1 [BMS, Merck, Curetech] and anti-PDL-1[Genentech]) as well as other molecularly targeted agents such as the BRAF inhibitor dabrafenibin[GSK] and the MEK inhibitors trametinib [GSK] selumetinib [AZ] and MEK162 [Novartis] in the near future. Evaluation of the clinical role of these agents as adjuvant therapy will take years to accomplish to ascertain the relapse-free survival benefits and overall survival benefits of these agents, but neo-adjuvant exploration may provide early critical evidence of the therapeutic benefits, as well as clarifying the mechanisms of these agents alone and in combination.
PMCID: PMC3654101  PMID: 23608443
melanoma; emerging new therapies; immunotherapy; CTLA-4; PD-1, vaccines; adoptive therapy; B-RAF inhibitor; MEK inhibitor; cKIT inhibitor; Bcl-2; HERV-K; micro-RNA; si-RNA; nanoparticles; stem cells
21.  Neo-adjuvant Capecitabine Chemotherapy in Women with Newly Diagnosed Locally Advanced Breast Cancer in a Resource-poor Setting (Nigeria): Efficacy and Safety in a Phase II Feasibility Study 
The Breast Journal  2013;19(5):470-477.
The majority of clinical trials of neo-adjuvant therapy for breast cancer have been conducted in resource-rich countries. We chose Nigeria, a resource-poor country, as the major site for a phase II feasibility open-label multicenter clinical trial designed to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of neo-adjuvant capecitabine in locally advanced breast cancer (LABC). Planned treatment consisted of 24 weeks of capecitabine at a dose of 1,000 mg/m2 twice daily (2,000 mg/m2 total per day). The primary endpoints were overall, partial, complete clinical response rate (OCR, PCR, CCR) and complete pathologic response (cPR). A total of 16 patients were recruited from August 2007 to April 2010. The study was terminated early as a result of slow accrual. After the first three cycles of therapy, PCR were seen in five of 16 patients (31%; 95% CI 11–59%). Of the remaining 11 patients, eight had no response (NR) or stable disease (SD), and three had progressive disease (PD). Seven patients proceeded with further therapy of which had SD. OCR at the end of eight cycles was 44% (95% CI 20–70%). Clinical response and radiologic response by ultrasonomammography were highly concordant (spearman correlation 0.70). The most common adverse effect was Grade 1 hand–foot syndrome, which was seen in 75% of patients. Despite several limitations, we successfully carried out this phase II feasibility study of neo-adjuvant capecitabine for LABC in Nigeria. Capecitabine monotherapy showed good overall response rates with minimal toxicity and further studies are warranted.
PMCID: PMC4282544  PMID: 23865786
capecitabine; clinical response; locally advanced breast cancer; Nigeria; resource-poor country
22.  Clinical Application of Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Management of Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:348167.
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC), also termed primary, induction, or preoperative chemotherapy, is traditionally used to downstage inoperable breast cancer. In recent years it has been increasingly used for patients who have operable cancers in order to facilitate breast-conserving surgery, achieve better cosmetic outcome, and improve prognosis by reaching pathologic complete response (pCR). Many studies have demonstrated that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can assess residual tumor size after NAC, and that provides critical information for planning of the optimal surgery. NAC also allows for timely adjustment of administered drugs based on response, so ineffective regimens could be terminated early to spare patients from unnecessary toxicity while allowing other effective regimens to work sooner. This review article summarizes the clinical application of MRI during NAC. The use of different MR imaging methods, including dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI, proton MR spectroscopy, and diffusion-weighted MRI, to monitor and evaluate the NAC response, as well as how changes of parameters measured at an early time after initiation of a drug regimen can predict final treatment outcome, are reviewed. MRI has been proven a valuable tool and will continue to provide important information facilitating individualized image-guided treatment and personalized management for breast cancer patients undergoing NAC.
PMCID: PMC3687601  PMID: 23862143
23.  Relationship of Clinical and Pathologic Nodal Staging in Locally Advanced Breast Cancer: Current Controversies in Daily Practice? 
Systemic neo-adjuvant therapy plays a primary role in the management of locally advanced breast cancer. Without having any negative effect in overall survival, induction chemotherapy potentially assures a surgery approach in unresectable disease or a conservative treatment in technically resectable disease and acts on a well-vascularized tumor bed, without the modifications induced by surgery. A specific issue has a central function in the neo-adjuvant setting: lymph nodes status. It still represents one of the strongest predictors of long-term prognosis in breast cancer. The discussion of regional radiation therapy should be a matter of debate, especially in a pathological complete response. Currently, the indication for radiotherapy is based on the clinical stage before the surgery, even for the irradiation of the loco-regional lymph nodes. Regardless of pathological down-staging, radiation therapy is accepted as standard adjuvant treatment in locally advanced breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4169081  PMID: 25247013
Breast cancer; Lymph nodes; Staging; Clinical stage; Pathologic
24.  Integration of targeted agents in the neo-adjuvant treatment of gastro-esophageal cancers 
Pre- and peri-operative strategies are becoming standard for the management of localized gastro-esophageal cancer. For localized gastric/gastro-esophageal junction (GEJ) cancer there are conflicting data that a peri-operative approach with cisplatin-based chemotherapy improves survival, with the benefits seen in esophageal cancer likely less than a 5–10% incremental improvement. Further trends toward improvement in local control and survival, when combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy are given pre-operatively, are suggested by recent phase III trials. In fit patients, a significant survival benefit with pre-operative chemoradiation is seen in those patients who achieve a pathologic complete response. In esophageal/GEJ cancer, definitive chemoradiation is now considered in medically inoperable patients. In squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, surgery after primary chemoradiation is not clearly associated with an improved overall survival, however, local control may be better. In localized gastric/GEJ cancer, the integration of bevacizumab with pre-operative chemotherapy is being explored in large randomized studies, and with chemoradiotherapy in pilot trials. The addition of anti-epidermal growth factor receptor and anti-human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 antibody treatment to pre-operative chemoradiation continues to be explored. Early results show the integration of targeted therapy is feasible. Metabolic imaging can predict early response to pre-operative chemotherapy and biomarkers may further predict response to pre-operative chemo-targeted therapy. A multimodality approach to localized gastro-esophageal cancer has resulted in better outcomes. For T3 or node-positive disease, surgery alone is no longer considered appropriate and neo-adjuvant therapy is recommended. The future of neo-adjuvant strategies in this disease will involve the individualization of therapy with the integration of molecular signatures, targeted therapy, metabolic imaging and predictive biomarkers.
PMCID: PMC3126001  PMID: 21789119
esophageal carcinoma; bevacizumab; trastuzumab; cetuximab; radiation; chemotherapy
25.  Comparing Efficacy of Preoperative neo-Adjuvant Chemotherapy and Surgery versus Surgery Alone in Patients with Resectable Gastroesophageal Cancer 
Recent researches have led to find strategies to prevent relapse and to improve survival for gastric cancer patients, including preoperative neo-adjuvant approaches. However, the efficacy of some neo-adjuvant regimens including 5-fluorouracil, cisplatin, and docetaxel have been less investigated. The present study evaluated the outcome and mid-term survival of patients with gastric cancer who undergoing this regimen.
In a randomized double-blinded controlled trial performed at the Firoozgar hospital in Tehran in 2011-12, 61 patients were randomly assigned to treatment (32 to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy with docetaxel, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) before surgery and 27 to surgery alone). The present study tried to assess the efficacy of neoadjuvant chemotherapy regarding improvement of mid-term survival, complications, and R0 resection status.
The two groups were matched in terms of gender, mean age, cancer location, and TNM staging. However, R0 resection in the former group was 85.7%; while this indicator in the isolated surgery group was significantly lower (61.5%). Regarding WHO performance, no significant difference was observed across the two groups. Patients in neo-adjuvant chemotherapy group were followed for mean follow-up time 10.32 months and those who categorized in isolated surgery group were followed for mean follow-up time 10.88 months. Mid-term mortality rate in the two groups was 14.3% and 15.4%, respectively (p = 0.866). In this regard, 3-, 6-, and 9-month survival rate in neo-adjuvant chemotherapy group was 96.4%, 89.3%, and 85.7%, respectively. These survival rates in the surgery group were 92.3%, 88.5%, and 84.6%, respectively. Multivariable logistic regression analysis showed that among all study variables, only R0 resection status could predict mid-term mortality.
Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy and surgery compare to surgery alone more improve R0 resection status, but mid-term survival rate is similar in the two regiments. R0 resection status can effectively predict appropriate mid-term survival in undertreated patients.
PMCID: PMC3915424  PMID: 24505539
Gastroesophageal junction; Mortality; Chemotherapy; Surgery

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