PURPOSE: To compare clinical, immunohistochemical (IHC), and gene expression models of prognosis applicable to formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded blocks in a large series of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers from patients uniformly treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR) assays for 50 genes identifying intrinsic breast cancer subtypes were completed on 786 specimens linked to clinical (median follow-up, 11.7 years) and IHC [ER, progesterone receptor (PR), HER2, and 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.
RESULTS: Despite clinical ER positivity, 10% of cases were assigned to nonluminal 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 follow-up, relative to the most common luminal A subtype, are 1.99 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.09-3.64] for luminal B, 3.65 (95% CI, 1.64-8.16) for HER2-enriched subtype, and 17.71 (95% CI, 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-year survival without chemotherapy. In node-positive disease, PAM50-based prognostic models were also superior.
CONCLUSION: 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 IHC using standard cut points.