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1.  Surgery of the primary tumor does not improve survival in stage IV breast cancer 
We sought to evaluate the survival of patients who received breast surgery prior to any other breast cancer therapy following a metastatic diagnosis. Standard treatment for stage IV breast cancer is systemic therapy without resection of the primary tumor. Registry-based studies suggest that resection of the primary tumor may improve survival in stage IV cancer. We performed a retrospective analysis using data from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Breast Cancer Outcomes Database. Patients were eligible if they had a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis at presentation with disease at a distant site and either received surgery prior to any systemic therapy or received systemic therapy only. Eligible patients who did not receive surgery were matched to those who received surgery based on age at diagnosis, ER, HER2, and number of meta-static sites. To determine whether estimates from the matched analysis were consistent with estimates that could be obtained without matching univariate and multivariable analyses of the unmatched sample were also conducted. There were 1,048 patients in the NCCN database diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer from 1997 to 2007. 609 meta-static breast cancer patients were identified as eligible for the study. Among the 551 patients who had data available for matching, 236 patients who did not receive surgery were matched to 54 patients who received surgery. Survival was similar between the groups with a median of 3.4 years in the nonsurgery group and 3.5 years in the surgery group. The groups were similar after adjusting for the presence of lung metastases and use of trastuzumab therapy (HR = 0.94, CI 0.83–1.08, P = 0.38). When matching for the variables associated with a survival benefit in previous studies, surgery was not shown to improve survival in the stage IV setting for this subset
doi:10.1007/s10549-011-1648-2
PMCID: PMC3382105  PMID: 21713372
Stage IV breast cancer; Surgery; Survival; Mastectomy
2.  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.
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000068.
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000068
PMCID: PMC2673042  PMID: 19536326
3.  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.
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000279.
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)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000279
PMCID: PMC2876119  PMID: 20520800
4.  Excision of the primary tumour in patients with metastatic breast cancer: a clinical dilemma 
Current Oncology  2012;19(4):e270-e279.
Background
Approximately 10% of new breast cancer patients will present with overt synchronous metastatic disease. The optimal local management of those patients is controversial. Several series suggest that removal of the primary tumour is associated with a survival benefit, but the retrospective nature of those studies raises considerable methodologic challenges. We evaluated our clinical experience with the management of such patients and, more specifically, the impact of surgery in patients with synchronous metastasis.
Methods
We reviewed patients with primary breast cancer and concurrent distant metastases seen at our centre between 2005 and 2007. Demographic and treatment data were collected. Study endpoints included overall survival and symptomatic local progression rates.
Results
The 111 patients identified had a median follow-up of 40 months (range: 0.6–71 months). We allocated the patients to one ot two groups: a nonsurgical group (those who did not have breast surgery, n = 63) and a surgical group (those who did have surgery, n = 48, 29 of whom had surgery before the metastatic diagnosis). When compared with patients in the nonsurgical group, patients in the surgical group were less likely to present with T4 tumours (23% vs. 35%), N3 nodal disease (8% vs. 19%), and visceral metastasis (67% vs. 73%). Patients in the surgical group experienced longer overall survival (49 months vs. 33 months, p = 0.01) and lower rates of symptomatic local progression (14% vs. 44%, p < 0.001).
Conclusions
In our study, improved overall survival and symptomatic local control were demonstrated in the surgically treated patients; however, this group had less aggressive disease at presentation. The optimal local management of patients with metastatic breast cancer remains unknown. An ongoing phase iii trial, E2108, has been designed to assess the effect of breast surgery in metastatic patients responding to first-line systemic therapy. If excision of the primary tumour is associated with a survival benefit, then the preselected subgroup of patients who have responded to initial systemic therapy is the desired population in which to put this hypothesis to the test.
doi:10.3747/co.19.974
PMCID: PMC3410839  PMID: 22876156
Metastatic breast cancer; surgery; local excision
5.  Microenvironmental Influences on Metastasis Suppressor Expression and Function during a Metastatic Cell’s Journey 
Cancer Microenvironment  2014;7(3):117-131.
Metastasis is the process of primary tumor cells breaking away and colonizing distant secondary sites. In order for a tumor cell growing in one microenvironment to travel to, and flourish in, a secondary environment, it must survive a series of events termed the metastatic cascade. Before departing the primary tumor, cells acquire genetic and epigenetic changes that endow them with properties not usually associated with related normal differentiated cells. Those cells also induce a subset of bone marrow-derived stem cells to mobilize and establish pre-metastatic niches [1]. Many tumor cells undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), where they transiently acquire morphologic changes, reduced requirements for cell-cell contact and become more invasive [2]. Invasive tumor cells eventually enter the circulatory (hematogenous) or lymphatic systems or travel across body cavities. In transit, tumor cells must resist anoikis, survive sheer forces and evade detection by the immune system. For blood-borne metastases, surviving cells then arrest or adhere to endothelial linings before either proliferating or extravasating. Eventually, tumor cells complete the process by proliferating to form a macroscopic mass [3].
Up to 90 % of all cancer related morbidity and mortality can be attributed to metastasis. Surgery manages to ablate most primary tumors, especially when combined with chemotherapy and radiation. But if cells have disseminated, survival rates drop precipitously. While multiple parameters of the primary tumor are predictive of local or distant relapse, biopsies remain an imperfect science. The introduction of molecular and other biomarkers [4, 5] continue to improve the accuracy of prognosis. However, the invasive procedure introduces new complications for the patient. Likewise, the heterogeneity of any tumor population [3, 6, 7] means that sampling error (i.e., since it is impractical to examine the entire tumor) necessitates further improvements.
In the case of breast cancer, for example, women diagnosed with stage I diseases (i.e., no evidence of invasion through a basement membrane) still have a ~30 % likelihood of developing distant metastases [8]. Many physicians and patients opt for additional chemotherapy in order to “mop up“ cells that have disseminated and have the potential to grow into macroscopic metastases. This means that ~ 70 % of patients receive unnecessary therapy, which has undesirable side effects. Therefore, improving prognostic capability is highly desirable.
Recent advances allow profiling of primary tumor DNA sequences and gene expression patterns to define a so-called metastatic signature [9–11], which can be predictive of patient outcome. However, the genetic changes that a tumor cell must undergo to survive the initial events of the metastatic cascade and colonize a second location belie a plasticity that may not be adequately captured in a sampling of heterogeneous tumors. In order to tailor or personalize patient treatments, a more accurate assessment of the genetic profile in the metastases is needed. Biopsy of each individual metastasis is not practical, safe, nor particularly cost-effective. In recent years, there has been a resurrection of the notion to do a ‘liquid biopsy,’ which essentially involves sampling of circulating tumor cells (CTC) and/or cell free nucleic acids (cfDNA, including microRNA (miRNA)) present in blood and lymph [12–16].
The rationale for liquid biopsy is that tumors shed cells and/or genetic fragments into the circulation, theoretically making the blood representative of not only the primary tumor but also distant metastases. Logically, one would predict that the proportion of CTC and/or cfDNA would be proportionate to the likelihood of developing metastases [14]. While a linear relationship does not exist, the information within CTC or cfDNA is beginning to show great promise for enabling a global snapshot of the disease. However, the CTC and cfDNA are present at extremely low levels. Nonetheless, newer technologies capture enough material to enrich and sequence the patient’s DNA or quantification of some biomarkers.
Among the biomarkers showing great promise are metastasis suppressors which, by definition, block a tumor cell’s ability to complete the metastatic process without prohibiting primary tumor growth [17]. Since the discovery of the first metastasis suppressor, Nm23, more than 30 have been functionally characterized. They function at various stages of the metastatic cascade, but their mechanisms of action, for the most part, remain ill-defined. Deciphering the molecular interactions of functional metastasis suppressors may provide insights for targeted therapies when these regulators cease to function and result in metastatic disease.
In this brief review, we summarize what is known about the various metastasis suppressors and their functions at individual steps of the metastatic cascade (Table 1). Some of the subdivisions are rather arbitrary in nature, since many metastasis suppressors affect more than one step in the metastatic cascade. Nonetheless what emerges is a realization that metastasis suppressors are intimately associated with the microenvironments in which cancer cells find themselves [18].
doi:10.1007/s12307-014-0148-4
PMCID: PMC4275500  PMID: 24938990
BRMS1; CD44; CRMP4; DCC; DLC1; GSN; LIFR; LSD1; MTBP; OGR1; RKIP; SSeCKS; Stefin A; RhoGDI2; RRM1; Caspase 8; Gas1. KAI1; Regulatory RNA; miRNA; KISS1; NDRG1; NME1; MKK4; MKK7; p38; CADM1; TSLC1; FXR; Invasion; Motility; Metastasis suppressor; Colonization; Cell-free DNA; Circulating tumor cell; CTC; DTC; cfDNA
6.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Mediates Intracrine Survival in Human Breast Carcinoma Cells through Internally Expressed VEGFR1/FLT1 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e186.
Background
While vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in breast tumors has been correlated with a poor outcome in the pathogenesis of breast cancer, the expression, localization, and function of VEGF receptors VEGFR1 (also known as FLT1) and VEGFR2 (also known as KDR or FLK1), as well as neuropilin 1 (NRP1), in breast cancer are controversial.
Methods and Findings
We investigated the expression and function of VEGF and VEGF receptors in breast cancer cells. We observed that VEGFR1 expression was abundant, VEGFR2 expression was low, and NRP1 expression was variable. MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells, transfected with antisense VEGF cDNA or with siVEGF (VEGF-targeted small interfering RNA), showed a significant reduction in VEGF expression and increased apoptosis as compared to the control cells. Additionally, specifically targeted knockdown of VEGFR1 expression by siRNA (siVEGFR1) significantly decreased the survival of breast cancer cells through down-regulation of protein kinase B (AKT) phosphorylation, while targeted knockdown of VEGFR2 or NRP1 expression had no effect on the survival of these cancer cells. Since a VEGFR1-specific ligand, placenta growth factor (PGF), did not, as expected, inhibit the breast cancer cell apoptosis induced by siVEGF, and since VEGFR1 antibody also had no effects on the survival of these cells, we examined VEGFR1 localization. VEGFR1 was predominantly expressed internally in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Specifically, VEGFR1 was found to be colocalized with lamin A/C and was expressed mainly in the nuclear envelope in breast cancer cell lines and primary breast cancer tumors. Breast cancer cells treated with siVEGFR1 showed significantly decreased VEGFR1 expression levels and a lack of VEGFR1 expression in the nuclear envelope.
Conclusions
This study provides, to our knowledge for the first time, evidence of a unique survival system in breast cancer cells by which VEGF can act as an internal autocrine (intracrine) survival factor through its binding to VEGFR1. These results may lead to an improved strategy for tumor therapy based on the inhibition of angiogenesis.
Shalom Avraham and colleagues' study provides evidence of a survival system in breast cancer cells by which VEGF acts as an internal autocrine survival factor through its binding to VEGFR1.
Editors' Summary
Background.
One woman in eight will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Most of these women live for many years after their diagnosis and many are cured of their cancer. However, sometimes the cancer grows inexorably and spreads (metastasizes) around the body despite the efforts of oncologists. Characteristics of the tumor known as prognostic factors can indicate whether this spreading is likely to happen. Large tumors that have metastasized have a poorer prognosis than small tumors that are confined to the breast. The expression of specific proteins within the tumor also provides prognostic information. One protein whose expression is associated with a poor prognosis is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF stimulates angiogenesis—the growth of new blood vessels. Small tumors get the nutrients needed for their growth from existing blood vessels but large tumors need to organize their own blood supply. They do this, in part, by secreting VEGF. This compound binds to proteins (receptors) on the surface of endothelial cells (the cells lining blood vessels), which then send a signal into the cell instructing it to make new blood vessels. Angiogenesis inhibitors, including molecules that block the activity of VEGF receptors, are being developed for the treatment of cancer.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some breast cancer cell lines (cells isolated from breast cancers and grown in the laboratory) make VEGF and VEGF receptors (VEGFR1, VEGFR2, and neuropilin 1 [NRP1]). But, although some studies have reported an association between VEGFR1 expression in breast tumors and a poor prognosis, other studies have found no expression of VEGFR1 in breast tumors. Consequently, the role of VEGF receptors in breast cancer is unclear. In this study, the researchers analyzed the expression and function of VEGF and its receptors in breast cancer cells to investigate whether and how VEGF helps these cells to survive.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first examined the expression of VEGF receptors in several human breast cancer cell lines. All of them expressed VEGFR1, some expressed NRP1, but VEGFR2 expression was universally low. They then investigated the function of VEGF and its receptors in two human breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7). In both cell lines, blocking the expression of VEGF or of VEGFR1 (but not of the other two receptors) reduced cell survival by stimulating a specific process of cell death called apoptosis. Unexpectedly, adding VEGF to the cultures did not reverse the effect of blocking VEGF expression, a result that suggests that VEGF and VEGFR1 do not affect breast cancer cell survival by acting at the cell surface. Accordingly, when the researchers examined where VEGFR1 occurs in the cell, they found it on the membranes around the nucleus of the breast cancer cell lines and not on the cell surface; several primary breast tumors and normal breast tissue had the same localization pattern. Finally, the researchers showed that inhibitors of VEGF action that act at the cell surface did not affect the survival of the breast cancer cell lines.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that VEGF helps breast cancer cells to survive in a unique way: by binding to VEGFR1 inside the cell. In other words, whereas VEGF normally acts as a paracrine growth factor (it is released by one cell and affects another cell), in breast cancer cells it might act as an internal autocrine (intracrine) survival factor, a factor that affects the cells in which it is produced. These findings need confirming in more cell lines and in primary breast cancers but could have important implications for the treatment of breast cancer. Inhibitors of VEGF and VEGFR1 that act inside the cell (small molecule drugs) might block breast cancer growth more effectively than inhibitors that act at the cell surface (for example, proteins that bind to the receptor), because internally acting inhibitors might both kill the tumor directly and have antiangiogenic effects, whereas externally acting inhibitors could only have the second effect.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040186.
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on breast cancer (in English and Spanish) and on angiogenesis (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus Encyclopedia information for patients on breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
CancerQuest, information from Emory University on cancer biology and on angiogenesis and angiogenesis inhibitors (in several languages)
Wikipedia pages on VEGF (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040186
PMCID: PMC1885450  PMID: 17550303
7.  Evaluating Letrozole and Tamoxifen Alone and in Sequence for Postmenopausal Women with Steroid Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer: the BIG 1-98 Randomized Clinical Trial at 8.1 years Median Follow-Up 
The lancet oncology  2011;12(12):1101-1108.
Background
Postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive early breast cancer have persistent, long-term risk of breast cancer recurrence and death. Therefore, trials evaluating endocrine therapies for this patient population require extended follow-up. We present an update of efficacy outcomes in the Breast International Group (BIG) 1-98 study at 8.1 years median follow-up.
Methods
BIG 1-98 is a randomized, phase III, double-blind trial of 8010 postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive early breast cancer that compares five years of tamoxifen or letrozole monotherapy or sequential treatment with two years of one of these agents followed by three years of the other. The primary efficacy endpoint is disease-free survival (DFS: events comprise invasive breast cancer relapse, second primaries [contralateral breast and non-breast], or death without prior cancer event), and secondary endpoints are overall survival (OS), distant recurrence-free interval (DRFI) and breast cancer-free interval (BCFI). The monotherapy comparison includes patients randomized to tamoxifen × 5 years (n=2459) or letrozole × 5 years (n=2463). In 2005, after significant DFS benefit was reported for letrozole as compared with tamoxifen, a protocol amendment facilitated the crossover to letrozole of patients who were still receiving tamoxifen alone; Cox models and Kaplan-Meier estimates with inverse probability of censoring weighting (IPCW) are used to account for selective crossover to letrozole of 619 patients in the tamoxifen arm. The comparison of sequential treatments to letrozole monotherapy includes patients enrolled in the four-arm option of the trial and randomized to letrozole × 5 years (n=1546), letrozole × 2 years followed by tamoxifen × 3 years (n=1540), or tamoxifen × 2 years followed by letrozole × 3 years (n=1548). All patients have completed study treatment; follow up is continuing for those enrolled in the four-arm option. BIG 1-98 is registered at clinicaltrials.gov NCT00004205.
Findings
At a median follow-up of 8.7 years from randomization (range 0–12.4), letrozole monotherapy is significantly better than tamoxifen, whether using IPCW or intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis [IPCW: DFS HR 0.82 (95% CI 0.74–0.92), OS HR 0.79 (0.69–0.900, DRFI HR 0.79 (0.68–0.92), BCFI HR 0.80 (0.70–0.92); ITT: DFS HR 0.86 (0.78–0.96), OS HR 0.87 (0.77–0.999), DRFI HR 0.86 (0.74–0.998), BCFI HR 0.86 (0.76–0.98)]. At a median follow-up of 8.0 years from randomization (range 0–11.2), there were no statistically significant differences in any of the four endpoints for either sequence compared with letrozole monotherapy. Eight-year ITT estimates [each with SE ≤ 1.1%] for letrozole monotherapy, letrozole followed by tamoxifen, and tamoxifen followed by letrozole were 78.6%, 77.8%, 77.3% for DFS; 87.5%, 87.7%, 85.9% for OS; 89.9%, 88.7%, 88.1% for DRFI; and 86.1%, 85.3%, 84.3% for BCFI.
Interpretation
For postmenopausal women with endocrine-responsive early breast cancer, a reduction in breast cancer recurrence and mortality is obtained by letrozole monotherapy when compared to tamoxifen. Sequential treatments involving tamoxifen and letrozole do not improve outcome compared with letrozole monotherapy, but may represent useful strategies considering individual patient’s risk of recurrence and treatment tolerability: more thromboembolic events, vaginal bleeding, hot flushes and night sweats with tamoxifen, while more vaginal dryness, bone fractures, osteoporosis, arthralgia/myalgia, and higher grade cardiac events with letrozole.
Funding
Novartis, United States National Cancer Institute, International Breast Cancer Study Group.
doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(11)70270-4
PMCID: PMC3235950  PMID: 22018631
aromatase inhibitor; letrozole; breast cancer; adjuvant therapy; endocrine therapy; tamoxifen
8.  Stimulation of Host Bone Marrow Stromal Cells by Sympathetic Nerves Promotes Breast Cancer Bone Metastasis in Mice 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(7):e1001363.
The activation of sympathetic nerves by psychosocial stress creates a favorable environment in bone for the establishment of cancer cells in a mouse model of breast cancer.
Bone and lung metastases are responsible for the majority of deaths in patients with breast cancer. Following treatment of the primary cancer, emotional and psychosocial factors within this population precipitate time to recurrence and death, however the underlying mechanism(s) remain unclear. Using a mouse model of bone metastasis, we provide experimental evidence that activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is one of many pathophysiological consequences of severe stress and depression, promotes MDA-231 breast cancer cell colonization of bone via a neurohormonal effect on the host bone marrow stroma. We demonstrate that induction of RANKL expression in bone marrow osteoblasts, following β2AR stimulation, increases the migration of metastatic MDA-231 cells in vitro, independently of SDF1-CXCR4 signaling. We also show that the stimulatory effect of endogenous (chronic stress) or pharmacologic sympathetic activation on breast cancer bone metastasis in vivo can be blocked with the β-blocker propranolol, and by knockdown of RANK expression in MDA-231 cells. These findings indicate that RANKL promotes breast cancer cell metastasis to bone via its pro-migratory effect on breast cancer cells, independently of its effect on bone turnover. The emerging clinical implication, supported by recent epidemiological studies, is that βAR-blockers and drugs interfering with RANKL signaling, such as Denosumab, could increase patient survival if used as adjuvant therapy to inhibit both the early colonization of bone by metastatic breast cancer cells and the initiation of the “vicious cycle” of bone destruction induced by these cells.
Author Summary
Improved detection programs and better drugs to eradicate breast tumors have increased survival in women with breast cancer. However, pain and metastasis to distant organs, including bone, remain significant clinical problems. Understanding why and how metastatic cancer cells colonize specific organs is therefore critical if we are to further improve morbidity and mortality for these patients. Using a mouse model of breast cancer bone metastasis, we present evidence that activation of sympathetic nerves, which is typical in chronic stress or depression, promotes the colonization and establishment of metastatic cancer cells within the bone marrow, leading to an increase in bone osteolytic lesions. We show that this effect is mediated via a β-adrenergic receptor-dependent response of the host bone marrow stroma to catecholamines, that are released upon sympathetic activation, and via the pro-migratory activity of RANKL, a cytokine that is well known to promote bone resorption. Of importance clinically, blocking sympathetic activation with a β-blocker, or blocking RANKL signaling in cancer cells, inhibited the stimulatory effect of sympathetic activation on bone metastasis in this mouse model. Stress-induced sympathetic activation may thus explain, at least in part, the reduced survival rate of breast cancer patients experiencing severe depression. The data also support the use of β-blockers or RANKL blockade as possible adjuvant therapy for women with breast cancer.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001363
PMCID: PMC3398959  PMID: 22815651
9.  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: www.health.gov.on.ca/mas or at www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html
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
Objective
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
10.  IBCSG 23-01 randomised controlled trial comparing axillary dissection versus no axillary dissection in patients with sentinel node micrometastases 
The lancet oncology  2013;14(4):297-305.
Background
For breast cancer patients with a metastatic sentinel node (SN), axillary dissection (AD) has been standard treatment. However, for patients with minimal SN involvement, AD may be overtreatment. IBCSG Trial 23-01 was designed to determine whether no AD is non-inferior to AD in patients with one or more micrometastatic (≤2 mm) SNs and tumour ≤5 cm.
Methods
In this multicentre trial patients were randomised to AD or no AD. Eligibility was limited to patients with clinically-palpable axillary lymph node(s) and a primary tumour ≤ 5 cm who, after sentinel node biopsy, had one or more micrometastatic (≤ 2 mm) sentinel lymphs nodes with no extracapsular extension. The primary endpoint was disease-free survival (DFS). Non-inferiority was defined as a hazard ratio of <1·25 for no AD vs. AD. The analysis was intention to treat. Patients were randomly allocated in a 1:1 ratio to AD or no AD with stratification by centre and menopausal status. There was no attempt to blind the treatment assignment. The trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT00072293. Per protocol, disease and survival information continues to be collected yearly.
Findings
From 2001 to 2010, 934 patients were randomised; 931 were evaluable (464 in the AD group and 467 in the no AD group). After a median follow-up of 5·0 (IQR 3.6–7.3) years, there were 124 DFS events, including breast-cancer-related events in 95 patients (local, 18; contralateral breast, 12; regional, 6; and distant, 59), and other events in 29 (second malignancy, 26; death without prior cancer event, 3). Five-year DFS was 87·8% (95% CI 84·4%–91·2%) in the no AD group and 84·4% (95% CI 80·7%–88·1%) in the AD group (log-rank p=0·16) (HR no AD vs. AD=0·78, 95% CI 0·55–1·11, non-inferiority p=0·0042). Patients with reported long-term surgical events (grade 3–4) included 1 sensory neuropathy (grade 3), 3 lymphedema (2 grade 3 and 1 grade 4), and 3 motor neuropathy (grade 3), all in the AD group, and 1 grade 3 motor neuropathy in the no AD group. One serious adverse event was reported, a post-operative infection in the axilla in the AD group.
Interpretation
AD in patients with early breast cancer represented in this study (most had tumours < 3 cm (92%; 856/931), received breast conserving surgery (91%; 845/931) and adjuvant systemic therapy (96%; 892/931)) should be avoided when the SN is minimally involved, thus eliminating complications of axillary surgery with no adverse effect on survival.
Funding
Supported in part: local participating centres, IBCSG central funds, CA075362 from the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and Swiss Cancer League/Cancer Research- Switzerland/Oncosuisse (ICPOCS 01688-03-2005). No pharmaceutical company funds were used.
doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70035-4
PMCID: PMC3935346  PMID: 23491275
breast cancer; sentinel node; axillary node; micrometastasis; sentinel node biopsy; axillary dissection; lymph node
11.  Receptor-Defined Subtypes of Breast Cancer in Indigenous Populations in Africa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001720.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Isabel dos Santos Silva and colleagues estimate the prevalence of receptor-defined subtypes of breast cancer in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in Africa. Receptor-defined subtypes are a major determinant of treatment options and disease outcomes but there is considerable uncertainty regarding the frequency of poor prognosis estrogen receptor (ER) negative subtypes in Africa. We systematically reviewed publications reporting on the frequency of breast cancer receptor-defined subtypes in indigenous populations in Africa.
Methods and Findings
Medline, Embase, and Global Health were searched for studies published between 1st January 1980 and 15th April 2014. Reported proportions of ER positive (ER+), progesterone receptor positive (PR+), and human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 positive (HER2+) disease were extracted and 95% CI calculated. Random effects meta-analyses were used to pool estimates. Fifty-four studies from North Africa (n = 12,284 women with breast cancer) and 26 from sub-Saharan Africa (n = 4,737) were eligible. There was marked between-study heterogeneity in the ER+ estimates in both regions (I2>90%), with the majority reporting proportions between 0.40 and 0.80 in North Africa and between 0.20 and 0.70 in sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, large between-study heterogeneity was observed for PR+ and HER2+ estimates (I2>80%, in all instances). Meta-regression analyses showed that the proportion of ER+ disease was 10% (4%–17%) lower for studies based on archived tumor blocks rather than prospectively collected specimens, and 9% (2%–17%) lower for those with ≥40% versus those with <40% grade 3 tumors. For prospectively collected samples, the pooled proportions for ER+ and triple negative tumors were 0.59 (0.56–0.62) and 0.21 (0.17–0.25), respectively, regardless of region. Limitations of the study include the lack of standardized procedures across the various studies; the low methodological quality of many studies in terms of the representativeness of their case series and the quality of the procedures for collection, fixation, and receptor testing; and the possibility that women with breast cancer may have contributed to more than one study.
Conclusions
The published data from the more appropriate prospectively measured specimens are consistent with the majority of breast cancers in Africa being ER+. As no single subtype dominates in the continent availability of receptor testing should be a priority, especially for young women with early stage disease where appropriate receptor-specific treatment modalities offer the greatest potential for reducing years of life lost.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Breast cancer is the commonest female tumor in Africa and death rates from the disease in some African countries are among the highest in the world. Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast acquire genetic changes that allow them to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body. When a breast lump is found (by mammography or manual examination), a few cells are collected from the lump (a biopsy) to look for abnormal cells and to test for the presence of estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) on the cells. The hormones estrogen and progesterone promote the growth of normal breast cells and of ER+ and PR+ breast cancer cells. HER2 also controls the growth of breast cells. The receptor status of breast cancer is a major determinant of treatment options and prognosis (likely outcome). ER+ tumors, for example, are more receptive to hormonal therapy and have a better prognosis than ER− tumors, whereas HER2+ tumors, which make large amounts of HER2, are more aggressive than HER2− tumors. Breast cancer is treated by surgically removing the lump or the whole breast (mastectomy) if the tumor has already spread, before killing any remaining cancer cells with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In addition, ER+, PR+, and HER2+ tumors are treated with drugs that block these receptors (including tamoxifen and trastuzumab), thereby slowing breast cancer growth.
Why Was This Study Done?
ER+ tumors predominate in white women but the proportion of ER+ tumors among US-born black women is slightly lower. The frequency of different receptor-defined subtypes of breast cancer in indigenous populations in Africa is currently unclear but policy makers need this information to help them decide whether routine receptor status testing should be introduced across Africa. Because receptor status is a major determination of treatment options and outcomes, it would be more important to introduce receptor testing if all subtypes are present in breast cancers in indigenous African women and if no one subtype dominates than if most breast cancers in these women are ER+. In this systematic review (a study that uses pre-defined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and meta-analysis (a statistical approach that combines the results of several studies), the researchers examine the distribution of receptor-defined breast cancer subtypes in indigenous populations in Africa.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 54 relevant studies from North Africa involving 12,284 women with breast cancer (mainly living in Egypt or Tunisia) and 26 studies from sub-Saharan Africa involving 4,737 women with breast cancer (mainly living in Nigeria or South Africa) and used the data from these studies to calculate the proportions of ER+, PR+, and HER2+ tumors (the number of receptor-positive tumors divided by the number of tumors with known receptor status) across Africa. The proportion of ER+ tumors varied markedly between studies, ranging between 0.40 and 0.80 in North Africa and between 0.20 and 0.70 in sub-Saharan Africa. Among prospectively collected samples (samples collected specifically for receptor-status testing; studies that determined the receptor status of breast cancers using stored samples reported a lower proportion of ER+ disease than studies that used prospectively collected samples), the overall pooled proportions of ER+ and triple negative tumors were 0.59 and 0.21, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although these findings highlight the scarcity of data on hormone receptor and HER2 status in breast cancers in indigenous African populations, they provide new information about the distribution of breast cancer subtypes in Africa. Specifically, these findings suggest that although slightly more than half of breast cancers in Africa are ER+, no single subtype dominates. They also suggest that the distribution of receptor-defined breast cancer subtypes in Africa is similar to that found in Western populations. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by the low methodological quality of many of the studies and the lack of standardized procedures. Thus, large well-designed studies are still needed to accurately quantify the distribution of various breast cancer subtypes across Africa. In the meantime, the current findings support the introduction of routine receptor testing across Africa, especially for young women with early stage breast cancer in whom the potential to improve survival and reduce the years of life lost by knowing the receptor status of an individual's tumor is greatest.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001720.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Sulma i Mohammed
The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) provides comprehensive information about cancer (in English and Spanish), including detailed information for patients and professionals about breast cancer including an online booklet for patients
Cancer Research UK, a not-for profit organization, provides information about cancer; its detailed information about breast cancer includes sections on tests for hormone receptors and HER2 and on treatments that target hormone receptors and treatments that target HER2
Breastcancer.org is a not-for-profit organization that provides up-to-date information about breast cancer (in English and Spanish), including information on hormone receptor status and HER2 status
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information and personal stories about breast cancer; the not-for profit organization Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about dealing with breast cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001720
PMCID: PMC4159229  PMID: 25202974
12.  Exquisite Sensitivity of TP53 Mutant and Basal Breast Cancers to a Dose-Dense Epirubicin−Cyclophosphamide Regimen 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e90.
Background
In breast cancers, only a minority of patients fully benefit from the different chemotherapy regimens currently in use. Identification of markers that could predict the response to a particular regimen would thus be critically important for patient care. In cell lines or animal models, tumor protein p53 (TP53) plays a critical role in modulating the response to genotoxic drugs. TP53 is activated in response to DNA damage and triggers either apoptosis or cell-cycle arrest, which have opposite effects on cell fate. Yet, studies linking TP53 status and chemotherapy response have so far failed to unambiguously establish this paradigm in patients. Breast cancers with a TP53 mutation were repeatedly shown to have a poor outcome, but whether this reflects poor response to treatment or greater intrinsic aggressiveness of the tumor is unknown.
Methods and Findings
In this study we analyzed 80 noninflammatory breast cancers treated by frontline (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy. Tumor diagnoses were performed on pretreatment biopsies, and the patients then received six cycles of a dose-dense regimen of 75 mg/m2 epirubicin and 1,200 mg/m2 cyclophosphamide, given every 14 days. After completion of chemotherapy, all patients underwent mastectomies, thus allowing for a reliable assessment of chemotherapy response. The pretreatment biopsy samples were used to determine the TP53 status through a highly efficient yeast functional assay and to perform RNA profiling. All 15 complete responses occurred among the 28 TP53-mutant tumors. Furthermore, among the TP53-mutant tumors, nine out of ten of the highly aggressive basal subtypes (defined by basal cytokeratin [KRT] immunohistochemical staining) experienced complete pathological responses, and only TP53 status and basal subtype were independent predictors of a complete response. Expression analysis identified many mutant TP53-associated genes, including CDC20, TTK, CDKN2A, and the stem cell gene PROM1, but failed to identify a transcriptional profile associated with complete responses among TP53 mutant tumors. In patients with unresponsive tumors, mutant TP53 status predicted significantly shorter overall survival. The 15 patients with responsive TP53-mutant tumors, however, had a favorable outcome, suggesting that this chemotherapy regimen can overcome the poor prognosis generally associated with mutant TP53 status.
Conclusions
This study demonstrates that, in noninflammatory breast cancers, TP53 status is a key predictive factor for response to this dose-dense epirubicin–cyclophosphamide regimen and further suggests that the basal subtype is exquisitely sensitive to this association. Given the well-established predictive value of complete responses for long-term survival and the poor prognosis of basal and TP53-mutant tumors treated with other regimens, this chemotherapy could be particularly suited for breast cancer patients with a mutant TP53, particularly those with basal features.
Hugues de The and colleagues report thatTP53 status is a predictive factor for responsiveness in breast cancers to a dose-dense epirubicin-cyclophosphamide chemotherapy regimen, and suggests that this regimen might be well suited for patientsTP53 mutant tumors.
Editors' Summary
Background.
One woman in eight will develop breast cancer during her life. As with other cancers, breast cancer arises when cells accumulate genetic changes (mutations) that allow them to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body. These altered cells are called malignant cells. The normal human breast contains several types of cell, any of which can become malignant. In addition, there is more than one route to malignancy—different sets of genes can be mutated. As a result, breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease that cannot be cured with a single type of treatment. Ideally, oncologists would like to know before they start treating a patient which therapeutic approach is going to be successful for that individual. Recently, researchers have begun to identify molecular changes that might eventually allow oncologists to make such rational treatment decisions. For example, laboratory studies in cell lines or animals indicate that the status of a gene called TP53 determines the chemotherapy agents (drugs that preferentially kill rapidly dividing cancer cells) to which cells respond. p53, the protein encoded by TP53, is a tumor suppressor. That is, in normal cells it prevents unregulated growth by controlling the expression of proteins involved in cell division and cell death. Consequently, p53 is often inactivated during cancer development.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although laboratory studies have linked TP53 status to chemotherapy responses, little is known about this relationship in human breast cancers. The clinical studies that have investigated whether TP53 status affects chemotherapy responses have generally found that patients whose tumors contain mutant TP53 have a poorer response to therapy and/or a shorter survival time than those whose tumors contain normal TP53. In this study, the researchers have asked whether TP53 status affects tumor responses to a dose-intense chemotherapy regimen (frequent, high doses of drugs) given to women with advanced noninflammatory breast cancer before surgery. This type of treatment is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy and is used to shrink tumors before surgery.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected breast tumor samples from 80 women before starting six fortnightly cycles of chemotherapy with epirubicin and cyclophosphamide. After this, each woman had her affected breast removed and examined to see whether the chemotherapy had killed the tumor cells. The researchers determined which original tumor samples contained mutated TP53 and used a technique called microarray expression profiling to document gene expression patterns in them. Overall, 28 tumors contained mutated TP53. Strikingly, all 15 tumors that responded completely to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (no tumor cells detectable in the breast tissue after chemotherapy) contained mutated TP53. Nine of these responsive tumors were basal-cell–like breast tumors, a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer; only one basal-cell–like, TP53-mutated tumor did not respond to chemotherapy. Patients whose tumors were unresponsive to the neoadjuvant chemotherapy but contained mutated TP53 tended to die sooner than those whose tumors contained normal TP53 or those with chemotherapy-responsive TP53-mutated tumors. Finally, expression profiling identified changes in the expression of many p53-regulated genes, but did not identify an expression profile in the TP53-mutated tumors unique to those that responded to chemotherapy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that noninflammatory breast tumors containing mutant TP53—in particular, basal-cell–like tumors—are very sensitive to dose-dense epirubicin and cyclophosphamide chemotherapy. Intensive regimens of this type have rarely been used in previous studies, which might explain the apparent contradiction between these results and the generally poor response to chemotherapy of TP53-mutated breast tumors. More tumors now need to be examined to confirm the association between complete response, TP53 status and basal-cell–like tumors. In addition, although complete tumor responses generally predict good overall survival, longer survival studies than those reported here are needed to show that the tumor response to this particular neoadjuvant chemotherapy regimen translates into improved overall survival. If the present results can be confirmed and extended, dose-dense neoadjuvant chemotherapy with epirubicin and cyclophosphamide could considerably improve the outlook for patients with aggressive TP53-mutant, basal-cell–like breast tumors.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040090.
The US National Cancer Institute provides patient and physician information on breast cancer and general information on understanding cancer
Cancer Research UK offers patient information on cancer and breast cancer
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on breast cancer
Emory University's CancerQuest discusses the biology of cancer, including the role of tumor suppressor proteins
Wikipedia has pages on p53 (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040090
PMCID: PMC1831731  PMID: 17388661
13.  Preoperative/Neoadjuvant Therapy in Pancreatic Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Response and Resection Percentages 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000267.
Jörg Kleef and colleagues systematically reviewed studies on neoadjuvant therapy and tumor response, toxicity, resection, and survival percentages in pancreatic cancer and suggest that patients with locally nonresectable tumors should be included in neoadjuvant protocols.
Background
Pancreatic cancer has an extremely poor prognosis and prolonged survival is achieved only by resection with macroscopic tumor clearance. There is a strong rationale for a neoadjuvant approach, since a relevant percentage of pancreatic cancer patients present with non-metastatic but locally advanced disease and microscopic incomplete resections are common. The objective of the present analysis was to systematically review studies concerning the effects of neoadjuvant therapy on tumor response, toxicity, resection, and survival percentages in pancreatic cancer.
Methods and Findings
Trials were identified by searching MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from 1966 to December 2009 as well as through reference lists of articles and proceedings of major meetings. Retrospective and prospective studies analyzing neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy of pancreatic cancer patients, followed by re-staging, and surgical exploration/resection were included. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed study quality. Pooled relative risks and 95% confidence intervals were calculated using random-effects models. Primary outcome measures were proportions of tumor response categories and percentages of exploration and resection. A total of 111 studies (n = 4,394) including 56 phase I–II trials were analyzed. A median of 31 (interquartile range [IQR] 19–46) patients per study were included. Studies were subdivided into surveys considering initially resectable tumors (group 1) and initially non-resectable (borderline resectable/unresectable) tumors (group 2). Neoadjuvant chemotherapy was given in 96.4% of the studies with the main agents gemcitabine, 5-FU (and oral analogues), mitomycin C, and platinum compounds. Neoadjuvant radiotherapy was applied in 93.7% of the studies with doses ranging from 24 to 63 Gy. Averaged complete/partial response probabilities were 3.6% (95% CI 2%–5.5%)/30.6% (95% CI 20.7%–41.4%) and 4.8% (95% CI 3.5%–6.4%)/30.2% (95% CI 24.5%–36.3%) for groups 1 and 2, respectively; whereas progressive disease fraction was estimated to 20.9% (95% CI 16.9%–25.3%) and 20.8% (95% CI 14.5%–27.8%). In group 1, resectability was estimated to 73.6% (95% CI 65.9%–80.6%) compared to 33.2% (95% CI 25.8%–41.1%) in group 2. Higher resection-associated morbidity and mortality rates were observed in group 2 versus group 1 (26.7%, 95% CI 20.7%–33.3% versus 39.1%, 95% CI 29.5%–49.1%; and 3.9%, 95% CI 2.2%–6% versus 7.1%, 95% CI 5.1%–9.5%). Combination chemotherapies resulted in higher estimated response and resection probabilities for patients with initially non-resectable tumors (“non-resectable tumor patients”) compared to monotherapy. Estimated median survival following resection was 23.3 (range 12–54) mo for group 1 and 20.5 (range 9–62) mo for group 2 patients.
Conclusions
In patients with initially resectable tumors (“resectable tumor patients”), resection frequencies and survival after neoadjuvant therapy are similar to those of patients with primarily resected tumors and adjuvant therapy. Approximately one-third of initially staged non-resectable tumor patients would be expected to have resectable tumors following neoadjuvant therapy, with comparable survival as initially resectable tumor patients. Thus, patients with locally non-resectable tumors should be included in neoadjuvant protocols and subsequently re-evaluated for resection.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. It begins when a cell in the pancreas (an organ lying behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and hormones such as insulin that controls blood sugar levels) acquires genetic changes that allow it to grow uncontrollably and, sometimes, to spread around the body (metastasize). Because pancreatic cancer rarely causes any symptoms early in its development, it is locally advanced in more than a third of patients and has already metastasized in another half of patients by the time it is diagnosed. Consequently, on average, people die within 5–8 months of a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. At present, the only chance for cure is surgical removal (resection) of the tumor, part of the pancreas, and other nearby digestive organs. This procedure—the Whipple procedure—is only possible in the fifth of patients whose tumor is found when it is small enough to be resectable, and even in these patients, the cure rate associated with surgery is less than 25%, although radiotherapy or chemotherapy after surgery (adjuvant therapy) can be beneficial.
Why Was This Study Done?
For patients whose tumor has metastasized, palliative chemotherapy to slow down tumor growth and to minimize pain is the only treatment option. But, for the many patients whose disease is locally advanced and unresectable at diagnosis, experts think that “neoadjuvant” therapy might be helpful. Neoadjuvant therapy—chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy given before surgery—aims to convert unresectable tumors into resectable tumors by shrinking the visible tumor and removing cancer cells that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Randomized phase III trials—studies in which groups of patients are randomly assigned to different interventions and specific outcomes measured—are the best way to determine whether an intervention has any clinical benefits, but no randomized phase III trials of neoadjuvant therapy for unresectable pancreatic cancer have been undertaken. Therefore, in this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of several studies), the researchers analyze data from other types of studies to investigate whether neoadjuvant therapy for pancreatic cancer provides any clinical benefits.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In their systematic review, the researchers identified 111 studies involving 4,394 patients in which the effects of neoadjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy on tumor response, tumor resectability, and patient survival had been investigated. They subdivided the studies into two groups: group 1 studies included patients whose tumors were considered resectable on preoperative examination, and group 2 studies included patients whose tumors were borderline resectable or unresectable. In their meta-analysis, the researchers found that similar percentages of the tumors in both groups responded to neoadjuvant therapy by shrinking or regressing and that about a fifth of the tumors in each group grew larger or metastasized during neoadjuvant therapy. In the group 1 studies, three-quarters of the tumors were resectable after neoadjuvant therapy (a decrease in the proportion of tumors that could be treated surgically) whereas in the group 2 studies, a third of the tumors were resectable after neoadjuvant therapy (an increase in the proportion of tumors that could be treated surgically). After resection, the average survival time for group 1 patients was 23.3 months, a similar survival time to that seen in patients treated with surgery and adjuvant therapy. The average survival time for group 2 patients after resection was 20.5 months.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The finding that the average survival time after neoadjuvant therapy and surgery in patients whose tumor was judged resectable before neoadjuvant therapy was similar to that of patients treated with chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy after surgery suggests that for patients with resectable tumors, neoadjuvant therapy will not provide any clinical benefit. By contrast, the finding that a third of patients initially judged unresectable were able to undergo resection after neoadjuvant therapy and then had a similar survival rate to patients judged resectable before neoadjuvant treatment strongly suggests that patients presenting with locally advanced/unresectable tumors should be offered neoadjuvant therapy and then re-evaluated for resection. Randomized trials are now needed to confirm this finding and to determine the optimum neoadjuvant therapy for this group of patients.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000267.
The US National Cancer Institute provides information for patients and health professionals about all aspects of pancreatic cancer (in English and Spanish), including a booklet for patients
The American Cancer Society also provides detailed information about pancreatic cancer
The UK National Health Service and Cancer Research UK include information for patients on pancreatic cancer on their Web sites
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on pancreatic cancer (in English and Spanish)
Pancreatica.org, PancreaticDuct.org, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network give more information to pancreatic cancer patients, their families, and caregivers
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000267
PMCID: PMC2857873  PMID: 20422030
14.  Screening Mammography for Women Aged 40 to 49 Years at Average Risk for Breast Cancer 
Executive Summary
Objective
The aim of this review was to determine the effectiveness of screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years at average risk for breast cancer.
Clinical Need
The effectiveness of screening mammography in women aged over 50 years has been established, yet the issue of screening in women aged 40 to 49 years is still unsettled. The Canadian Task Force of Preventive Services, which sets guidelines for screening mammography for all provinces, supports neither the inclusion nor the exclusion of this screening procedure for 40- to 49-year-old women from the periodic health examination. In addition to this, 2 separate reviews, one conducted in Quebec in 2005 and the other in Alberta in 2000, each concluded that there is an absence of convincing evidence on the effectiveness of screening mammography for women in this age group who are at average risk for breast cancer.
In the United States, there is disagreement among organizations on whether population-based mammography should begin at the age of 40 or 50 years. The National Institutes of Health, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend against screening women in their 40s, whereas the United States Preventive Services Task Force, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend screening mammograms for women aged 40 to 49 years. Furthermore, in comparing screening guidelines between Canada and the United States, it is also important to recognize that “standard care” within a socialized medical system such as Canada’s differs from that of the United States. The National Breast Screening Study (NBSS-1), a randomized screening trial conducted in multiple centres across Canada, has shown there is no benefit in mortality from breast cancer from annual mammograms in women randomized between the ages of 40 and 49, relative to standard care (i.e. physical exam and teaching of breast-self examination on entry to the study, with usual community care thereafter).
At present, organized screening programs in Canada systematically screen women starting at 50 years of age, although with a physician’s referral, a screening mammogram is an insured service in Ontario for women under 50 years of age.
International estimates of the epidemiology of breast cancer show that the incidence of breast cancer is increasing for all ages combined, whereas mortality is decreasing, though at a slower rate. These decreasing mortality rates may be attributed to screening and advances in breast cancer therapy over time. Decreases in mortality attributable to screening may be a result of the earlier detection and treatment of invasive cancers, in addition to the increased detection of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), of which certain subpathologies are less lethal. Evidence from the SEER cancer registry in the United States indicates that the age-adjusted incidence of DCIS has increased almost 10-fold over a 20-year period (from 2.7 to 25 per 100,000).
The incidence of breast cancer is lower in women aged 40 to 49 years than in women aged 50 to 69 years (about 140 per 100,000 versus 500 per 100,000 women, respectively), as is the sensitivity (about 75% versus 85% for women aged under and over 50, respectively) and specificity of mammography (about 80% versus 90% for women aged under and over 50, respectively). The increased density of breast tissue in younger women is mainly responsible for the lower accuracy of this procedure in this age group. In addition, as the proportion of breast cancers that occur before the age of 50 are more likely to be associated with genetic predisposition as compared with those diagnosed in women after the age of 50, mammography may not be an optimal screening method for younger women.
Treatment options vary with the stage of disease (based on tumor size, involvement of surrounding tissue, and number of affected axillary lymph nodes) and its pathology, and may include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiotherapy.
Surgery is the first-line intervention for biopsy confirmed tumours. The subsequent use of radiation, chemotherapy, or hormonal treatments is dependent on the histopathologic characteristics of the tumor and the type of surgery. There is controversy regarding the optimal treatment of DCIS, which is noninvasive.
With such controversy as to the effectiveness of mammography and the potential risk associated with women being overtreated or actual cancers being missed, and the increased risk of breast cancer associated with exposure to annual mammograms over a 10-year period, the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee requested this review of screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years at average risk for breast cancer. This review is the first of 2 parts and concentrates on the effectiveness of screening mammography (i.e., film mammography, FM) for women at average risk aged 40 to 49 years. The second part will be an evaluation of screening by either magnetic resonance imaging or digital mammography, with the objective of determining the optimal screening modality in these younger women.
Review Strategy
The following questions were asked:
Does screening mammography for women aged 40 to 49 years who are at average risk for breast cancer reduce breast cancer mortality?
What is the sensitivity and specificity of mammography for this age group?
What are the risks associated with annual screening from ages 40 to 49?
What are the risks associated with false positive and false negative mammography results?
What are the economic considerations if evidence for effectiveness is established?
The Medical Advisory Secretariat followed its standard procedures and searched these electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and the International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment.
Keywords used in the search were breast cancer, breast neoplasms, mass screening, and mammography.
In total, the search yielded 6,359 articles specific to breast cancer screening and mammography. This did not include reports on diagnostic mammograms. The search was further restricted to English-language randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews, and meta-analyses published between 1995 and 2005. Excluded were case reports, comments, editorials, and letters, which narrowed the results to 516 articles and previous health technology policy assessments.
These were examined against the criteria outlined below. This resulted in the inclusion of 5 health technology assessments, the Canadian Preventive Services Task Force report, the United States Preventive Services Task Force report, 1 Cochrane review, and 8 RCTs.
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles, and English and French-language health technology policy assessments, conducted by other organizations, from 1995 to 2005
Articles specific to RCTs of screening mammography of women at average risk for breast cancer that included results for women randomized to studies between the ages of 40 and 49 years
Studies in which women were randomized to screening with or without mammography, although women may have had clinical breast examinations and/or may have been conducting breast self-examination.
UK Age Trial results published in December 2006.
Exclusion Criteria
Observational studies, including those nested within RCTs
RCTs that do not include results on women between the ages of 40 and 49 at randomization
Studies in which mammography was compared with other radiologic screening modalities, for example, digital mammography, magnetic resonance imaging or ultrasound.
Studies in which women randomized had a personal history of breast cancer.
Intervention
Film mammography
Comparators
Within RCTs, the comparison group would have been women randomized to not undergo screening mammography, although they may have had clinical breast examinations and/or have been conducting breast self-examination.
Outcomes of Interest
Breast cancer mortality
Summary of Findings
There is Level 1 Canadian evidence that screening women between the ages of 40 and 49 years who are at average risk for breast cancer is not effective, and that the absence of a benefit is sustained over a maximum follow-up period of 16 years.
All remaining studies that reported on women aged under 50 years were based on subset analyses. They provide additional evidence that, when all these RCTs are taken into account, there is no significant reduction in breast cancer mortality associated with screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years.
Conclusions
There is Level 1 evidence that screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years at average risk for breast cancer is not effective in reducing mortality.
Moreover, risks associated with exposure to mammographic radiation, the increased risk of missed cancers due to lower mammographic sensitivity, and the psychological impact of false positives, are not inconsequential.
The UK Age Trial results published in December 2006 did not change these conclusions.
PMCID: PMC3377515  PMID: 23074501
15.  KRAS Testing for Anti-EGFR Therapy in Advanced Colorectal Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of the 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: www.health.gov.on.ca/mas or at www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html
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 Economic Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis.
Objective
The objective of this systematic review is to determine the predictive value of KRAS testing in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) with two anti-EGFR agents, cetuximab and panitumumab. Economic analyses are also being conducted to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of KRAS testing.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) is usually defined as stage IV disease according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer tumour node metastasis (TNM) system or stage D in the Duke’s classification system. Patients with advanced colorectal cancer (mCRC) either present with metastatic disease or develop it through disease progression.
KRAS (Kristen-RAS, a member of the rat sarcoma virus (ras) gene family of oncogenes) is frequently mutated in epithelial cancers such as colorectal cancer, with mutations occurring in mutational hotspots (codons 12 and 13) of the KRAS protein. Involved in EGFR-mediated signalling of cellular processes such as cell proliferation, resistance to apoptosis, enhanced cell motility and neoangiogenesis, a mutation in the KRAS gene is believed to be involved in cancer pathogenesis. Such a mutation is also hypothesized to be involved in resistance to targeted anti-EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor with tyrosine kinase activity) treatments such as cetuximab and panitumumab, hence, the important in evaluating the evidence on the predictive value of KRAS testing in this context.
KRAS Mutation Testing in Advanced Colorectal Cancer
Both cetuximab and panitumumab are indicated by Health Canada in the treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer whose tumours are WT for the KRAS gene. Cetuximab may be offered as monotherapy in patients intolerant to irinotecan-based chemotherapy or in patients who have failed both irinotecan and oxaliplatin-based regimens and who received a fluoropyrimidine. It can also be administered in combination with irinotecan in patients refractory to other irinotecan-based chemotherapy regimens. Panitumumab is only indicated as a single agent after failure of fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin-, and irinotecan-containing chemotherapy regimens.
In Ontario, patients with advanced colorectal cancer who are refractory to chemotherapy may be offered the targeted anti-EGFR treatments cetuximab or panitumumab. Eligibility for these treatments is based on the KRAS status of their tumour, derived from tissue collected from surgical or biopsy specimens. It is believed that KRAS status is not affected by treatments, therefore, for patients for whom surgical tissue is available for KRAS testing, additional biopsies prior to treatment with these targeted agents is not necessary. For patients that have not undergone surgery or for whom surgical tissue is not available, a biopsy of either the primary or metastatic site is required to determine their KRAS status. This is possible as status at the metastatic and primary tumour sites is considered to be similar.
Research Question
To determine if there is predictive value of KRAS testing in guiding treatment decisions with anti-EGFR targeted therapies in advanced colorectal cancer patients refractory to chemotherapy.
Research Methods
Literature Search
The Medical Advisory Secretariat followed its standard procedures and on May 18, 2010, searched the following electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and The International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment database.
The subject headings and keywords searched included colorectal cancer, cetuximab, panitumumab, and KRAS testing. The search was further restricted to English-language articles published between January 1, 2009 and May 18, 2010 resulting in 1335 articles for review. Excluded were case reports, comments, editorials, nonsystematic reviews, and letters. Studies published from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2008 were identified in a health technology assessment conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), published in 2010. In total, 14 observational studies were identified for inclusion in this EBA: 4 for cetuximab monotherapy, 7 for the cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy, and 3 to be included in the review for panitumumab monotherapy
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles, and English or French-language HTAs published from January 2005 to May 2010, inclusive.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or observational studies, including single arm treatment studies that include KRAS testing.
Studies with data on main outcomes of interest, overall and progression-free survival.
Studies of third line treatment with cetuximab or panitumumab in patients with advanced colorectal cancer refractory to chemotherapy.
For the cetuximab-irinotecan evaluation, studies in which at least 70% of patients in the study received this combination therapy.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies whose entire sample was included in subsequent publications which have been included in this EBA.
Studies in pediatric populations.
Case reports, comments, editorials, or letters.
Outcomes of Interest
Overall survival (OS), median
Progression-free-survival (PFS), median.
Response rates.
Adverse event rates.
Quality of life (QOL).
Summary of Findings of Systematic Review
Cetuximab or Panitumumab Monotherapy
Based on moderate GRADE observational evidence, there is improvement in PFS and OS favouring patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
Cetuximab-Irinotecan Combination Therapy
There is low GRADE evidence that testing for KRAS may optimize survival benefits in patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
However, cetuximab-irinotecan combination treatments based on KRAS status discount any effect of cetuximab in possibly reversing resistance to irinotecan in patients with the mutation, as observed effects were lower than for patients without the mutation. Clinical experts have raised concerns about the biological plausibility of this observation and this conclusion would, therefore, be regarded as hypothesis generating.
Economic Analysis
Cost-effectiveness and budget impact analyses were conducted incorporating estimates of effectiveness from this systematic review. Evaluation of relative cost-effectiveness, based on a decision-analytic cost-utility analysis, assessed testing for KRAS genetic mutations versus no testing in the context of treatment with cetuximab monotherapy, panitumumab monotherapy, cetuximab in combination with irinotecan, and best supportive care.
Of importance to note is that the cost-effectiveness analysis focused on the impact of testing for KRAS mutations compared to no testing in the context of different treatment options, and does not assess the cost-effectiveness of the drug treatments alone.
Conclusions
KRAS status is predictive of outcomes in cetuximab and panitumumab monotherapy, and in cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy.
While KRAS testing is cost-effective for all strategies considered, it is not equally cost-effective for all treatment options.
PMCID: PMC3377508  PMID: 23074403
16.  International Guidelines for Management of Metastatic Breast Cancer: Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Be Cured? 
A distinctive subset of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is oligometastatic disease, which is characterized by single or few detectable metastatic lesions. The existing treatment guidelines for patients with localized MBC include surgery, radiotherapy, and regional chemotherapy. The European School of Oncology–Metastatic Breast Cancer Task Force addressed the management of these patients in its first consensus recommendations published in 2007. The Task Force endorsed the possibility of a more aggressive and multidisciplinary approach for patients with oligometastatic disease, stressing also the need for clinical trials in this patient population. At the sixth European Breast Cancer Conference, held in Berlin in March 2008, the second public session on MBC guidelines addressed the controversial issue of whether MBC can be cured. In this commentary, we summarize the discussion and related recommendations regarding the available therapeutic options that are possibly associated with cure in these patients. In particular, data on local (surgery and radiotherapy) and chemotherapy options are discussed. Large retrospective series show an association between surgical removal of the primary tumor or of lung metastases and improved long-term outcome in patients with oligometastatic disease. In the absence of data from prospective randomized studies, removal of the primary tumor or isolated metastatic lesions may be an attractive therapeutic strategy in this subset of patients, offering rapid disease control and potential for survival benefit. Some improvement in outcome may also be achieved with optimization of systemic therapies, possibly in combination with optimal local treatment.
doi:10.1093/jnci/djq029
PMCID: PMC3298957  PMID: 20220104
17.  Metastasectomy and Surgical Resection of the Primary Tumor in Patients With Stage IV Breast Cancer 
Annals of surgical oncology  2010;17(9):2419-2426.
Patients with metastatic or stage IV breast cancer have limited therapeutic options, and the mainstay of treatment remains systemic chemotherapy. Traditionally, the role of surgery has been confined to strict palliation. Improvements in the efficacy of chemotherapeutic regimens, coupled with the use of hormonal and targeted therapy, have resulted in an expansion of surgical resection beyond simple palliation. Several single-institution studies have reported improved survival and even long-term cures after surgical resection for oligometastatic stage IV breast cancer. Similarly, provocative new data suggest that removal of the primary tumor in some patients may confer a survival advantage. The aim of this review is to summarize studies in the medical literature pertaining to the use of surgical resection in patients with stage IV breast cancer. We believe there is enough evidence to challenge conventional thinking about the role of surgery in stage IV breast cancer and to consider a new multimodality treatment paradigm to optimize patient outcomes. It is time to conduct a carefully designed randomized trial to see whether surgery in stage IV breast cancer does indeed warrant a second look.
doi:10.1245/s10434-010-1016-1
PMCID: PMC2930757  PMID: 20232163
18.  Health-related quality of life in breast cancer patients: A bibliographic review of the literature from 1974 to 2007 
Background
Quality of life in patients with breast cancer is an important outcome. This paper presents an extensive overview on the topic ranging from descriptive findings to clinical trials.
Methods
This was a bibliographic review of the literature covering all full publications that appeared in English language biomedical journals between 1974 and 2007. The search strategy included a combination of key words 'quality of life' and 'breast cancer' or 'breast carcinoma' in titles. A total of 971 citations were identified and after exclusion of duplicates, the abstracts of 606 citations were reviewed. Of these, meetings abstracts, editorials, brief commentaries, letters, errata and dissertation abstracts and papers that appeared online and were indexed ahead of publication were also excluded. The remaining 477 papers were examined. The major findings are summarized and presented under several headings: instruments used, validation studies, measurement issues, surgical treatment, systemic therapies, quality of life as predictor of survival, psychological distress, supportive care, symptoms and sexual functioning.
Results
Instruments-Several valid instruments were used to measure quality of life in breast cancer patients. The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Core Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30) and its breast cancer specific complementary measure (EORTC QLQ-BR23) and the Functional Assessment Chronic Illness Therapy General questionnaire (FACIT-G) and its breast cancer module (FACIT-B) were found to be the most common and well developed instruments to measure quality of life in breast cancer patients. Surgery-different surgical procedures led to relatively similar results in terms of quality of life assessments, although mastectomy patients compared to conserving surgery patients usually reported a lower body image and sexual functioning. Systemic therapies-almost all studies indicated that breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy might experience several side-effects and symptoms that negatively affect their quality of life. Adjuvant hormonal therapies also were found to have similar negative impact on quality of life, although in general they were associated with improved survival. Quality of life as predictor of survival-similar to known medical factors, quality of life data in metastatic breast cancer patients was found to be prognostic and predictive of survival time. Psychological distress-anxiety and depression were found to be common among breast cancer patients even years after the disease diagnosis and treatment. Psychological factors also were found to predict subsequent quality of life or even overall survival in breast cancer patients. Supportive care-clinical treatments to control emesis, or interventions such as counseling, providing social support and exercise could improve quality of life. Symptoms-Pain, fatigue, arm morbidity and postmenopausal symptoms were among the most common symptoms reported by breast cancer patients. As recommended, recognition and management of these symptoms is an important issue since such symptoms impair health-related quality of life. Sexual functioning-breast cancer patients especially younger patients suffer from poor sexual functioning that negatively affect quality of life.
Conclusion
There was quite an extensive body of the literature on quality of life in breast cancer patients. These papers have made a considerable contribution to improving breast cancer care, although their exact benefit was hard to define. However, quality of life data provided scientific evidence for clinical decision-making and conveyed helpful information concerning breast cancer patients' experiences during the course of the disease diagnosis, treatment, disease-free survival time, and recurrences; otherwise finding patient-centered solutions for evidence-based selection of optimal treatments, psychosocial interventions, patient-physician communications, allocation of resources, and indicating research priorities were impossible. It seems that more qualitative research is needed for a better understanding of the topic. In addition, issues related to the disease, its treatment side effects and symptoms, and sexual functioning should receive more attention when studying quality of life in breast cancer patients.
doi:10.1186/1756-9966-27-32
PMCID: PMC2543010  PMID: 18759983
19.  P53 autoantibodies in 1006 patients followed up for breast cancer 
Breast Cancer Research : BCR  2000;2(6):438-443.
Serial plasma samples from 1006 patients with breast cancer revealed: (i) no correlation of p53 autoantibody status with disease status at the time of sample collection, or with menopausal status at time of primary diagnosis of breast cancer; (ii) 155 out of 1006 (15%) of patients were positive for p53 autoantibodies, and these patients tended to have a persistent autoantibody status throughout follow up, irrespective of disease behaviour; and (iii) where a negative autoantibody status was found at primary diagnosis of breast cancer, this negative status persisted throughout follow up, irrespective of later disease behaviour. We conclude that screening for p53 autoantibody status is not informative on residual tumour activity nor on therapeutic responsiveness.
Introduction:
Dysfunction of the tumour-suppressor protein, p53, may be due to either mutational or epigenetic factors, each of which may lead to accumulation of cytoplasmic p53. Abnormal accumulation of p53 in breast cancer tissue is predictive of poor prognosis [1,2]. Humoral studies [3,4] have shown that cancer patients may develop immunity to abnormally expressed p53, as revealed by p53 autoantibodies in the blood. Again, prognostic correlates have been noted, with presence of circulating p53 autoantibodies at diagnosis of breast cancer being associated with reduced overall survival [5,6] and with poor prognostic factors such as high histological grade and the absence of hormone receptors [5,7,8].
Little is known of the potential value of p53 autoantibody in follow up of cancer. In lung cancer there is evidence that autoantibodies to p53 may provide a useful tool to monitor response to therapy [9,10], whereas serial measurements of autoantibodies to p53 in 40 patients with advanced ovarian cancer were not found to be clinically useful [11]. In breast cancer some 30% of node-negative patients will relapse within 5 years, but there is no current means to predict those who are at risk.
We performed the present study to ask if the presence of autoantibodies to p53 has any association with breast cancer progression.
Materials and method:
A library of plasma samples were collected from all patients attending one general oncology clinic for postoperative follow up of breast cancer. The clinical status of each patient at the time of sampling was summarized. An average of eight plasma samples were cryopreserved for each patient over a period of 15 years.
The enzyme-linked immusorbent assay (ELISA) for p53 autoantibodies was developed in-house, based on the ELISA procedure of Lubin et al [3]. Our in-house method is detailed in the full text of this article. In one assay series we compared a commercial ELISA kit for p53 autoantibodies with our in-house ELISA. A total of 20 patients' samples were tested, representing a range of positive and negative readings. Two samples scored as strongly positive with the in-house assay, but only one of these two scored positive with the commercial assay. Having established sensitivity, specificity and reproducibility of the in-house assay, we judged that this was superior to the commercial assay both in terms of sensitivity and of cost (£1 per test compared with £23 per test). The in-house assay was thus used throughout the present study.
Results:
Serial plasma samples from 1006 patients with breast cancer revealed the following: (i) no correlation of p53 autoantibody status with disease status at the time of sample collection (Table 1), or with menopausal status at time of primary diagnosis of breast cancer (Table 2); (ii) 155 out of 1006 (15%) of patients were positive for p53 autoantibodies, and these patients tended to have a persistent autoantibody status throughout follow up, irrespective of disease behaviour; and (iii) where a negative autoantibody status was found at primary diagnosis of breast cancer, this negative status persisted throughout follow up, irrespective of later disease behaviour (Table 3).
Discussion:
As a working hypothesis, we proposed that levels of autoantibodies to p53 would reflect tumour behaviour. However, we found that the presence or absence of p53 autoantibodies was not predictive of presence or absence of recurrent disease. There was an equivalent incidence of active disease at the time of sampling in both the autoantibody-negative and autoantibody-positive groups, these being 25.2 and 28.7%, respectively. Thus, humoral immune activity against p53 appeared to be relatively restricted to a subgroup of patients in whom, once an autoantibody response had been generated, antibody was likely to persist regardless of tumour behaviour. Conversely, where no detectable p53 autoantibody was present at the time of primary diagnosis, these patients remained similarly negative for antibody, irrespective of subsequent disease activity (Table 3).
In contrast to shed markers that correlate with tumour mass, such as CA15.3 for cancer of the breast, any tumour-related immune response will be subject to complex regulation. Autoantibody responses to p53 will require appropriate primary immunization; initial low-dose antigen exposure may induce immune tolerance and lack of response. Higher antigen doses may activate either antibody-mediated immunity, or cellular immunity.
In breast cancer patients, our results suggest that, once an active humoral response against p53 is established, then this remains active. This persistent humoral reaction may be driven by persistent antigenic stimulation by p53 protein derived from overexpression of p53 at distant metastatic sites; alternatively, irradiated normal tissue may be a source of continued antigenic stimulation, because a long-term side effect of radiation therapy is an increased expression of p53 in normal breast tissue that persists for several years [12]. Since the great majority of our total patient cohort had received radiotherapy, humoral immunity to p53 associated with primary disease might persist, even in those patients who enter remission, due to tumour-independent antigenic stimulation.
Loss of p53 function is known to correlate with loss of efficacy of cancer therapy in vivo [13,14]. This raised the possibility that autoantibodies to p53 that develop during follow up might indicate those patients whose tumor has become resistant to therapy. However, the present results show that, if no immunity has been generated at the time of primary diagnosis, then later immunity is unlikely to occur. This corresponds to the finding that expression of p53 antigen in biopies of locally advanced breast cancer did not correlate with drug resistance [15,16]. Overall, the present observations show that screening for p53 autoantibody status is not informative on residual tumour activity, or on therapeutic responsiveness. We conclude that the potential value of p53 autoantibody screening in patients with breast cancer is limited to the prognostic information obtained at diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC13921  PMID: 11056691
breast; cancer; monitoring; p53 autoantibodies
20.  “Clinical significance of multifocal and multicentric breast cancers and choice of surgical treatment: a retrospective study on a series of 1158 cases” 
BMC Surgery  2015;15(1):1.
Background
The biological and clinical significance of multifocal and multicentric (MF/MC) breast cancers and the choice of appropriate surgical treatment for these tumors are still debated.
Methods
1158 women operated on for a stage I-III breast cancer were included in this retrospective study; clinical and pathological data were obtained from the institutional database of the Department of Oncology of the University of Siena, Italy. The impact of MF/MC breast cancers on patterns of recurrence and breast cancer specific survival (BCSS) was investigated in relation to the type of surgical treatment.
Results
MF and MC cancers were present in 131 cases (11.3%) and 60 cases (5.2%) respectively and were more frequently treated with mastectomy (55 MF and 60 MC cancers, 81.2%) than with breast conserving surgery (36 MF cancers, 18.9%; p < 0.001). MF and MC breast cancers were associated with a worse prognosis with a BCSS of 154 months compared to 204 months of unicentric cancers (p < 0.001). In multivariate analysis, MF/MC cancers were independent prognostic factors for BCSS together with higher number of metastatic axillary nodes, absence of estrogen receptors and high proliferative activity. MF and MC cancers were related to a significantly shorter BCSS in patients submitted to mastectomy as well as those submitted to breast conserving surgery. Relapse at any site was higher in the subgroup of MF and MC cancers but the incidence of loco-regional and distant recurrences did not differ between patients treated with mastectomy or breast conserving surgery.
Conclusions
Our results indicate that MF/MC cancers have a negative impact on prognosis and are related to higher loregional and distant relapse independently from the type of surgery performed. Adjuvant therapies did not modify the poorer outcome, but in patients receiving adjuvant anthacyclines, the differences with unicentric tumors were reduced. Our data support the hypothesis that MF/MC tumors may have a worse biological behavior and that the presence of multiple foci should be considered in planning adjuvant treatments.
doi:10.1186/1471-2482-15-1
PMCID: PMC4324662  PMID: 25586679
Breast cancer; Multifocal breast cancer; Multicentric breast cancer; Breast cancer surgery; Breast cancer prognosis
21.  Clinical Efficacy of Including Capecitabine in Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53403.
Background
Capecitabine has proven effective as a chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer. Though several Phase II/III studies of capecitabine as neoadjuvant chemotherapy have been conducted, the results still remain inconsistent. Therefore, we performed a meta-analysis to obtain more precise understanding of the role of capecitabine in neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer patients.
Methods
The electronic database PubMed and online abstracts from ASCO and SABCS were searched to identify randomized clinical trials comparing neoadjuvant chemotherapy with or without capecitabine in early/operable breast cancer patients without distant metastasis. Risk ratios were used to estimate the association between capecitabine in neoadjuvant chemotherapy and various efficacy outcomes. Fixed- or random-effect models were adopted to pool data in RevMan 5.1.
Results
Five studies were included in the meta-analysis. Neoadjuvant use of capecitabine with anthracycline and/or taxane based therapy was not associated with significant improvement in clinical outcomes including: pathologic complete response in breast (pCR; RR = 1.10, 95% CI 0.87–1.40, p = 0.43), pCR in breast tumor and nodes (tnpCR RR = 0.99, 95% CI 0.83–1.18, p = 0.90), overall response rate (ORR; RR = 1.00, 95% CI 0.94–1.07, p = 0.93), or breast-conserving surgery (BCS; RR = 0.98, 95% CI 0.93–1.04, p = 0.49).
Conclusions
Neoadjuvant treatment of breast cancer involving capecitabine did not significantly improve pCR, tnpCR, BCS or ORR. Thus adding capecitabine to neoadjuvant chemotherapy regimes is unlikely to improve outcomes in breast cancer patients without distant metastasis. Further research is required to establish the condition that capecitabine may be useful in breast cancer neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053403
PMCID: PMC3536736  PMID: 23301067
22.  Elderly Postmenopausal Patients With Breast Cancer Are at Increased Risk for Distant Recurrence: A Tamoxifen Exemestane Adjuvant Multinational Study Analysis 
The Oncologist  2012;18(1):8-13.
This study assesses the incidence of breast cancer recurrence (locoregional and distant) and contralateral breast cancer by age at diagnosis among postmenopausal patients with hormone-sensitive breast cancer.
Introduction.
For postmenopausal patients with hormone-sensitive breast cancer, outcome is worse with increasing age at diagnosis. The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of breast cancer recurrence (locoregional and distant), and contralateral breast cancer by age at diagnosis.
Methods.
Patients enrolled in the Tamoxifen Exemestane Adjuvant Multinational (TEAM) trial were included. Primary endpoints were locoregional recurrence, distant recurrence, and contralateral breast cancer. Age at diagnosis was categorized as younger than 65 years, 65–74 years, and 75 years or older.
Results.
Overall, 9,766 patients were included, of which 5,349 were younger than 65 years (reference group), 3,060 were 65–74 years, and 1,357 were 75 years or older. With increasing age, a decreased administration of radiotherapy after breast conserving surgery (94%, 92%, and 88%, respectively) and adjuvant chemotherapy (51%, 23%, and 5%, respectively) was observed. Risk of distant recurrence increased with age at diagnosis; multivariable hazard ratio for patients aged 65–74 years was 1.20 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.00–1.44), hazard ratio for patients aged 75 years or older was 1.39 (95% CI: 1.08–1.79). Risks of locoregional recurrence and contralateral breast cancer were not significantly different across age groups.
Conclusion.
Elderly patients with breast cancer were at increased risk for distant recurrence. Other studies have shown that the risk of distant recurrence is mainly affected by adjuvant systemic therapy. All TEAM patients received adjuvant endocrine treatment; however, chemotherapy was administered less often in elderly patients. These findings are suggestive for consideration of chemotherapy in relatively fit elderly breast cancer patients with hormone-sensitive disease.
doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2012-0315
PMCID: PMC3556260  PMID: 23263290
Breast cancer; Elderly; Outcome; Recurrence; Hormone receptor positive
23.  A MODEL OF POSTSURGICAL ADVANCED METASTATIC BREAST CANCER MORE ACCURATELY REPLICATES THE CLINICAL EFFICACY OF ANTIANGIOGENIC DRUGS 
Cancer research  2013;73(9):2743-2748.
The failure rate of randomized phase III oncology clinical trials is extremely high, even when preceded by encouraging preclinical studies and phase II trial results of the same therapy. Thus there is considerable effort being made to improve the predictive clinical potential of preclinical models, in addition to improving phase II trial design. With respect to the former, preclinical models have historically relied heavily on treatment of primary spontaneous or transplanted tumors rather than the more common and therapeutically challenging clinical trial circumstance of advanced metastatic disease. Here we show that the oral antiangiogenic tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), sunitinib, which failed to meet primary or secondary survival endpoints in four separate phase III metastatic breast cancer (MBC) trials, either alone or with chemotherapy, similarly failed to show monotherapy or combination chemotherapy efficacy in a model of postsurgical advanced MBC, using a metastatic variant of the MDA-MB-231 triple negative human breast cancer. In contrast, the drug was effective when used to treat established orthotopic primary tumors. Similar results were obtained with pazopanib monotherapy, another antiangiogenic oral TKI. However, when an antibody targeting the VEGF pathway (DC101) was tested, it showed a trend in modestly improving the efficacy of paclitaxel therapy, thus resembling to a degree prior phase III clinical results of bevacizumab plus paclitaxel in MBC. Our results suggest the potential value of treating postsurgical advanced metastatic disease as a possible strategy to improve preclinical models for predicting outcomes in patients with metastatic disease.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-4183
PMCID: PMC4334448  PMID: 23610448
24.  Clinical Outcome in Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Metastatic Brain Tumors from the Primary Breast Cancer : Prognostic Factors in Local Treatment Failure and Survival 
Objective
Brain metastases in primary breast cancer patients are considerable sources of morbidity and mortality. Gamma knife radiosurgery (GKRS) has gained popularity as an up-front therapy in treating such metastases over traditional radiation therapy due to better neurocognitive function preservation. The aim of this study was to clarify the prognostic factors for local tumor control and survival in radiosurgery for brain metastases from primary breast cancer.
Methods
From March 2001 to May 2011, 124 women with metastatic brain lesions originating from a primary breast cancer underwent GKRS at a tertiary medical center in Seoul, Korea. All patients had radiosurgery as a primary treatment or salvage therapy. We retrospectively reviewed their clinical outcomes and radiological responses. The end point of this study was the date of patient's death or the last follow-up examination.
Results
In total, 106 patients (268 lesions) were available for follow-up imaging. The median follow-up time was 7.5 months. The mean treated tumor volume at the time of GKRS was 6273 mm3 (range, 4.5-27745 mm3) and the median dose delivered to the tumor margin was 22 Gy (range, 20-25 Gy). Local recurrence was assessed in 86 patients (216 lesions) and found to have occurred in 36 patients (83 lesions, 38.6%) with a median time of 6 months (range, 4-16 months). A treated tumor volume >5000 mm3 was significantly correlated with poor local tumor control through a multivariate analysis (hazard risk=7.091, p=0.01). Overall survival was 79.9%, 48.3%, and 15.3% at 6, 12, and 24 months, respectively. The median overall survival was 11 months after GKRS (range, 6 days-113 months). Multivariate analysis showed that the pre-GKRS Karnofsky performance status, leptomeningeal seeding prior to initial GKRS, and multiple metastatic lesions were significant prognostic factors for reduced overall survival (hazard risk=1.94, p=0.001, hazard risk=7.13, p<0.001, and hazard risk=1.46, p=0.046, respectively).
Conclusion
GKRS has shown to be an effective and safe treatment modality for treating brain metastases of primary breast cancer. Most metastatic brain lesions initially respond to GKRS, though, many patients have further CNS progression in subsequent periods. Patients with poor Karnofsky performance status and multiple metastatic lesions are at risk of CNS progression and poor survival, and a more frequent and strict surveillance protocol is suggested in such high-risk groups.
doi:10.3340/jkns.2013.54.4.329
PMCID: PMC3841276  PMID: 24294457
Breast cancer; Metastases; Gamma knife radiosurgery; Prognosis
25.  Emerging drug discovery approaches for selective targeting of “precursor” metastatic breast cancer cells: highlights and perspectives 
Breast cancer is a prevalent disease and a major cause of morbidity and cancer-related deaths among women worldwide. A significant number of patients at the time of primary diagnosis present metastatic disease, at least to locoregional lymph nodes, which results in somewhat unpredictable prognosis that often prompts adjuvant systemic therapies of various kinds. The time course of distant recurrence is also unpredictable with some patients sustaining a recurrence within months after diagnosis, even during adjuvant treatments, while others can experience recurrence years or decades after initial diagnosis. To date, clinically approved therapeutics yielded marginal benefits for patients with systemic metastatic breast disease, since despite high clinical responses to various therapies, the patients virtually always become resistant and tumor relapses. Molecular profiling studies established that breast cancer is highly heterogeneous and encompasses diverse histological and molecular subtypes with distinct biological and clinical implications in particular in relation to the incidence of progression to metastasis. The latter has been recognized to result from late genetic events during the multistep progression proposed by the dominant theory of carcinogenesis. However, there is evidence that the dissemination of primary cancer can also be initiated at a very early stage of cancer development, originating from rare cell variants, possibly cancer stem-like cells (CSC), with invasive potential. These precursor metastatic cancer cells with stem-like properties are defined by their ability to self-renew and to regenerate cell variants, which have high plasticity and intrinsic invasive properties required for dissemination and tropism toward specific organs. Equally relevant to the CSC hypothesis for metastasis formation is the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process, which is critical for the acquisition of cancer cell invasive behavior and for selection/gain of CSC properties. These exciting concepts have led to the formulation of various approaches for targeting precursor metastatic cells, and these have taken on greater priority in therapeutic drug discovery research by both academia and pharmaceuticals. In this review, we focus on current efforts in medicinal chemistry to develop small molecules able to target precursor metastatic cells via interference with the CSC/EMT differentiation program, self-renewal, and survival. It is not meant to be comprehensive and the reader is referred to selected reviews that provide coverage of related basic aspects. Rather, emphasis is given to promising molecules with CSC/EMT signaling at the preclinical stage and in clinical trials that are paving the way to new generations of anti-metastasis drugs.
PMCID: PMC3204890  PMID: 22046485
Breast cancer; metastasis; cancer stem cells; EMT; experimental therapy

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