Cytological Criteria to Predict Basal Phenotype of Breast Carcinomas

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Breast carcinoma is a heterogeneous disease. It can be classified into phenotypes based on the expression of certain proteins, with distinct differences in prognosis. The basal phenotype is associated with worse prognosis and it still remains without specific treatment. However, there is currently no international consensus on the cytological criteria that could predict this phenotype. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the cytological criteria in fine-needle aspiration biopsy and to identify their association with the basal phenotype of breast carcinoma. Fine-needle aspiration biopsy specimens and tissue sections (mastectomy specimen) from 74 cases of high-grade invasive ductal breast carcinomas were consecutively retrieved from the files of three institutions. Breast carcinomas were studied using the tissue microarray technique, being classified into phenotypes: luminal A, luminal B, HER2 overexpression, and basal. The cytological criteria for all cases were reviewed blindly by two pathologists according to five cytological criteria: cellularity, cell pattern, presence of necrosis, nucleoli, and nuclear atypia. Exact Fisher test was used to test the association between cytological criteria and the phenotypes of breast carcinoma. Necrosis was present in 64.7% of basal breast carcinomas, and 31.1% of nonbasal breast carcinomas, and that result was statistically significant, showing an odds ratio (OR) of 3.80. The basal phenotype, compared with the luminal A, showed more necrosis (OR — 6.97), present/prominent nucleoli (OR — 8.18), and cellularity more frequently (OR — 18.03). Necrosis, as well as present/prominent nucleoli and abundant cellularity are criteria more frequently associated to the basal phenotype of breast carcinoma.

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