Presence of Foxp3 expression in tumor cells predicts better survival in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer patients treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy
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The Forkhead Box Protein 3 is highly expressed not only in regulatory T cells, but also in tumor cells, acting as a transcriptional repressor of breast oncogenes including HER2. We investigated the prognostic significance of Foxp3 expression in cancer cells in a large cohort of patients with HER2-overexpressing breast carcinoma treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Foxp3-positive tumor cells were detected by immunohistochemistry in 103 patients with primary invasive HER2-overexpressing breast carcinoma, and treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy, with or without trastuzumab. Kaplan–Meier analysis and Cox regression model were used to assess relapse-free and overall survival, respectively, and according to the presence or the absence of Foxp3 expression in tumor cells. Breast cancer cells were Foxp3+ in 57% of tumors. Foxp3 expression in breast cancer cells was associated with better relapse-free (P = 0.005) and overall survival (P = 0.03). By multivariate analysis, the presence of Foxp3+ tumor cells produced an independent prognostic factor for both better relapse-free (P = 0.006) and overall survival (P = 0.03). These findings indicate that the presence of Foxp3+ tumor cells represents a new independent prognostic factor of improved outcome in HER2-overexpressing breast carcinoma, which could help identify high-risk patients for additional therapies after neoadjuvant chemotherapy.