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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A multigene predictor of metastatic outcome in early stage hormone receptor-negative and triple-negative breast cancer

Christina Yau1, Laura Esserman2, Dan H Moore2, Fred Waldman2, John Sninsky3 and Christopher C Benz12*

Author Affiliations

1 Buck Institute for Age Research, 8001 Redwood Boulevard, Novato, CA 94945, USA

2 Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, 2340 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA

3 Celera, LLC, 1401 Harbor Bay Parkway, Alameda, CA 94502, USA

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Breast Cancer Research 2010, 12:R85  doi:10.1186/bcr2753

Published: 14 October 2010

Abstract

Introduction

Various multigene predictors of breast cancer clinical outcome have been commercialized, but proved to be prognostic only for hormone receptor (HR) subsets overexpressing estrogen or progesterone receptors. Hormone receptor negative (HRneg) breast cancers, particularly those lacking HER2/ErbB2 overexpression and known as triple-negative (Tneg) cases, are heterogeneous and generally aggressive breast cancer subsets in need of prognostic subclassification, since most early stage HRneg and Tneg breast cancer patients are cured with conservative treatment yet invariably receive aggressive adjuvant chemotherapy.

Methods

An unbiased search for genes predictive of distant metastatic relapse was undertaken using a training cohort of 199 node-negative, adjuvant treatment naïve HRneg (including 154 Tneg) breast cancer cases curated from three public microarray datasets. Prognostic gene candidates were subsequently validated using a different cohort of 75 node-negative, adjuvant naïve HRneg cases curated from three additional datasets. The HRneg/Tneg gene signature was prognostically compared with eight other previously reported gene signatures, and evaluated for cancer network associations by two commercial pathway analysis programs.

Results

A novel set of 14 prognostic gene candidates was identified as outcome predictors: CXCL13, CLIC5, RGS4, RPS28, RFX7, EXOC7, HAPLN1, ZNF3, SSX3, HRBL, PRRG3, ABO, PRTN3, MATN1. A composite HRneg/Tneg gene signature index proved more accurate than any individual candidate gene or other reported multigene predictors in identifying cases likely to remain free of metastatic relapse. Significant positive correlations between the HRneg/Tneg index and three independent immune-related signatures (STAT1, IFN, and IR) were observed, as were consistent negative associations between the three immune-related signatures and five other proliferation module-containing signatures (MS-14, ONCO-RS, GGI, CSR/wound and NKI-70). Network analysis identified 8 genes within the HRneg/Tneg signature as being functionally linked to immune/inflammatory chemokine regulation.

Conclusions

A multigene HRneg/Tneg signature linked to immune/inflammatory cytokine regulation was identified from pooled expression microarray data and shown to be superior to other reported gene signatures in predicting the metastatic outcome of early stage and conservatively managed HRneg and Tneg breast cancer. Further validation of this prognostic signature may lead to new therapeutic insights and spare many newly diagnosed breast cancer patients the need for aggressive adjuvant chemotherapy.