Background: The MA.17 trial demonstrated that extended adjuvant endocrine therapy with letrozole after 5-y of tamoxifen markedly reduced the risk of recurrence in women with ER+ early stage breast cancer. This trial provides an opportunity to assess the ability of biomarkers to predict late recurrences in ER+ breast cancer. The Breast Cancer Index (BCI), a continuous risk index based on the combination of HOXB13:IL17BR (H:I) and the molecular grade index (MGI), estimates the individual risk of recurrence in ER+ breast cancer patients. In this study, the prognostic utility of BCI to predict late recurrences was examined.
Methods: FFPE tumor blocks were collected from patients who experienced a breast cancer recurrence up to unblinding of MA.17. Controls were matched 2:1 for age, tumor size, nodal status and prior chemotherapy, and were disease free for longer than cases. All cases were reviewed for standard histopathology and evaluated using the real-time RT-PCR BCI assay.
Results: Patient characteristics for the case-control study were similar to that from the overall study. Characteristics for cases (N=83) and controls (N=166) were not significantly different except for treatment. A higher percentage of controls compared to cases tended to be categorized as low risk by BCI (58% vs 43%), while a lower percentage of controls than cases tended to be categorized as high risk by BCI (34% vs 24%). In univariate analysis, treatment, BCI, H:I and HOXB13, but not tumor grade or MGI, were significant predictors of late recurrence. After adjusting for standard variables (age, tumor grade and treatment), BCI (OR 2.37; P=0.03), H:I (OR 2.55; P=0.04) and HOXB13 (OR 1.35; P=0.02) remained significant predictors of recurrence. HOXB13 expression at diagnosis predicted patient benefit from extended endocrine therapy with letrozole.
Conclusions: In this case-controlled study, the data demonstrate that BCI is a significant predictor of late recurrences in ER+ patients following 5-y of tamoxifen. The prognostic performance of BCI to predict late recurrences was largely dependent on HOXB13 expression. The integration of H:I and MGI within BCI provides prognostic utility for both early and late recurrences.