To compare clinical, immunohistochemical and gene expression models of prognosis applicable to formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded blocks in a large series of estrogen receptor positive breast cancers, from patients uniformly treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
qRT-PCR assays for 50 genes identifying intrinsic breast cancer subtypes were completed on 786 specimens linked to clinical (median followup 11.7 years) and immunohistochemical (ER, PR, HER2, Ki67) data. Performance of predefined intrinsic subtype and Risk-Of-Relapse scores was assessed using multivariable Cox models and Kaplan-Meier analysis. Harrell’s C index was used to compare fixed models trained in independent data sets, including proliferation signatures.
Despite clinical ER positivity, 10% of cases were assigned to non-Luminal subtypes. qRT-PCR signatures for proliferation genes gave more prognostic information than clinical assays for hormone receptors or Ki67. In Cox models incorporating standard prognostic variables, hazard ratios for breast cancer disease specific survival over the first 5 years of followup, relative to the most common Luminal A subtype, are 1.99 (95% CI: 1.09–3.64) for Luminal B, 3.65 (1.64–8.16) for HER2-enriched and 17.71 (1.71–183.33) for the basal like subtype. For node-negative disease, PAM50 qRT-PCR based risk assignment weighted for tumor size and proliferation identifies a group with >95% 10 yr survival without chemotherapy. In node positive disease, PAM50-based prognostic models were also superior.
The PAM50 gene expression test for intrinsic biological subtype can be applied to large series of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded breast cancers, and gives more prognostic information than clinical factors and immunohistochemistry using standard cutpoints.