Impact of low estrogen/progesterone receptor expression on survival outcomes in breast cancers previously classified as triple negative breast cancers

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To evaluate the impact of low estrogen/progesterone receptor (ER/PR) expression and effect of endocrine therapy on survival outcomes in human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative tumors with ER/PR <10%, previously labeled as triple negative.


In a retrospective review, 1257 patients were categorized according their ER/PR percentages into 3 groups, ER/PR <1% (group A), ER/PR 1% to 5% (group B), and ER/PR 6% to 10% (group C). Kaplan-Meier product limit method was used to estimate survival outcomes. Cox proportional hazards models was used to adjust for patient and tumor characteristics.


Groups A, B, and C had 897 (71.4%), 241 (19.2%), and 119 (9.4%) patients, respectively. After a median follow-up of 40 months there was no significant difference in 3-year recurrence-free survival (RFS): 64%, 67%, and 77% (P = .34) or overall survival (OS): 79%, 81%, and 88% (P = .33) for groups A, B, and C, respectively. ER/PR expression was not an independent predictor for RFS (hazard ratio [HR], 1.10; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.86-1.39; P = .46 for group B, and HR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.66-1.38; P = .81 for group C, compared with group A), or OS (HR, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.84-1.46; P = .46 for group B, and HR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.63-1.42; P = .78 for group C, compared with group A). Endocrine therapy had no impact on survival outcomes (RFS: P = .10; OS: P = .45) among groups.


In this cohort, a low ER/PR level (1%-5%) does not appear to have any significant impact on survival outcomes. There was a tendency for survival advantages in the ER/PR 6% to 10% is seen. Benefit of endocrine therapy in these patients is unclear. Cancer 2011;. © 2011 American Cancer Society.

In HER2/neu negative breast cancers, low levels of estrogen/progesterone receptor expression (1%-10%) by immunohistochemistry appear to have no significant impact on survival outcomes. The benefit of endocrine therapy in patients with such low levels of estrogen/progesterone expression is unclear.

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