The standardization of estrogen receptors
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Tumour estrogen receptor (ER) status may determine the medical treatment of a patient with breast cancer; yet inter-laboratory results can vary markedly, particularly when absolute cut-offs in fmol/mg cytosol protein are used. The use of standardized log units is proposed to permit greater inter-laboratory comparability. We have assessed the biochemical ER values using the dextran-coated charcoal method with three data sets, two quality control (QC) sets for Ontario laboratories and a data set with values for 184 primary breast cancer patients seen at Women's College Hospital (WCH) between 1985 and 1986. The distributions for all the raw data were skewed toward the lower end of the range; a log transformation improved the symmetry of the distributions. There was marked inter-laboratory variation in the QC data, and standardized log units greatly reduced this variability. The WCH data had similar differentiation by tumour size and nodal status with both the raw data and standardized log units. However, standardized log units provided more consistent evidence of an association between ER and immunohistochemical ERICA. The standardized log units provide quantitative receptor values suitable for multi-centre research, for future work with clinical outcomes, and for the daily management of patients.
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