Ki67 in Breast Cancer Assay: An Ad Hoc Testing Recommendation from the Canadian Association of Pathologists Task Force Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Ki67, a marker of cellular proliferation, is commonly assessed in surgical pathology laboratories. In breast cancer, Ki67 is an established prognostic factor with higher levels associated with worse long-term survival. However, Ki67 IHC is considered of limited clinical use in breast cancer management largely due to issues related to standardization and reproducibility of scoring across laboratories. Recently, both the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada have approved the use of abemaciclib (CDK4/6 inhibitor) for patients with HR+/HER2: high-risk early breast cancers in the adjuvant setting. Health Canada and the FDA have included a Ki67 proliferation index of ≥20% in the drug monograph. The approval was based on the results from monarchE, a phase III clinical trial in early-stage chemotherapy-naïve, HR+, HER2 negative patients at high risk of early recurrence. The study has shown significant improvement in invasive disease-free survival (IDFS) with abemaciclib when combined with adjuvant endocrine therapy at two years. Therefore, there is an urgent need by the breast pathology and medical oncology community in Canada to establish national guideline recommendations for Ki67 testing as a predictive marker in the context of abemaciclib therapy consideration. The following recommendations are based on previous IKWG publications, available guidance from the monarchE trial and expert opinions. The current recommendations are by no means final or comprehensive, and their goal is to focus on its role in the selection of patients for abemaciclib therapy. The aim of this document is to guide Canadian pathologists on how to test and report Ki67 in invasive breast cancer. Testing should be performed upon a medical oncologist’s request only. Testing must be performed on treatment-naïve tumor tissue. Testing on the core biopsy is preferred; however, a well-fixed resection specimen is an acceptable alternative. Adhering to ASCO/CAP fixation guidelines for breast biomarkers is advised. Readout training is strongly recommended. Visual counting methods, other than eyeballing, should be used, with global rather than hot spot assessment preferred. Counting 100 cells in at least four areas of the tumor is recommended. The Ki67 scoring app developed to assist pathologists with scoring Ki67 proposed by the IKWG, available for free download, may be used. Automated image analysis is very promising, and laboratories with such technology are encouraged to use it as an adjunct to visual counting. A score of <5 or >30 is more robust. The task force recommends that the results are best expressed as a continuous variable. The appropriate antibody clone and staining protocols to be used may take time to address. For the time being, the task force recommends having tonsils/+pancreas on-slide control and enrollment in at least one national/international EQA program. Analytical validation remains a pending goal. Until the data become available, using local ki67 protocols is acceptable. The task force recommends participation in upcoming calibration and technical validation initiatives.


  • Faragalla, Hala
  • Plotkin, Anna
  • Barnes, Penny
  • Lu, Fang-I
  • Kos, Zuzana
  • Mulligan, Anna Marie
  • Bane, Anita
  • Nofech Mozes, Sharon

publication date

  • March 6, 2023