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Is triple negative a prognostic factor in breast cancer?

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Breast cancer is characterized by hormone dependency, and endocrine therapy is a key treatment in breast cancer. Recently, targeted therapies such as Trastuzumab treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer has been important. Triple-negative (TN) breast cancer is characterized by lack of expression of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PgR), and the absence of HER2 protein overexpression, and so there is no targeted therapy for this subtype. In this study, we examined the biological and prognostic characteristics in TN breast cancer.

Patients and methods

Between January 1998 and September 2006, 1,552 patients with primary breast cancer were investigated retrospectively in this study and ER, PgR and HER2 status were evaluated in all cases. Furthermore, p53 overexpression and Ki67 values were examined immunohistochemically.


Patient distribution according to ER, PgR or HER2 status was as follows: ER and PgR positive: 57.9%, and ER and PgR negative: 25.1%. With regards to the HER2 status, HER2 positive was 23.3%, and triple negative (TN) was 14.0%. TN breast cancer has a high proliferation rate, high nuclear grade and frequent p53 overexpression. Patients with TN tumors had a significantly poorer disease-free survival (DFS) than those with non-TN tumors. After recurrence the overall survival (OS) rate in TN cases was significantly lower than that of the non-TN cases. Multivariate analysis revealed that TN was a significant factor for DFS and OS after recurrence.


TN breast cancer is a rare subtype with a high proliferation rate and a high nuclear grade, p53 overexpression, and lower DFS/OS. To improve the prognosis of TN breast cancer, a new effective strategy needs to be developed.

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Correspondence to Reiki Nishimura.

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Nishimura, R., Arima, N. Is triple negative a prognostic factor in breast cancer?. Breast Cancer 15, 303–308 (2008).

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