Characteristics, behaviour and role of biomarkers in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer

Aims: Characterising the factors responsible for metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is of significant importance, considering its high mortality rate and scant data. In this study, we evaluated the characteristics, clinical behaviour and role of biomarkers (androgen receptor (AR), oestrogen receptor beta (ERβ) and p53) in metastatic TNBC.

Methods: Immunohistochemistry was performed for AR, ERβ and p53 on 125 primary TNBCs with known metastasis and correlated with clinicopathological parameters and outcome. AR and p53mRNA profiling was also carried out on 34 tumours from the same series and correlated with outcomes.

Results: In this cohort, grade 3 and pT2 tumours predominated. The most common site for metastasis was the lung and pleura (41, 32.8%), and 15 (12.0%) cases demonstrated metastasis in multiple sites. Among these, 92% of tumours metastasised without preceding local recurrences. Five- and ten-year overall survival (OS) rates were 27% and 7.2%, while 5- and 10- year survival rates after metastasis were 9.6% and 3.2% respectively. AR, ERβ and p53 protein expressions were observed in 16%, 96.8% and 58.1% of tumours, respectively. A combinational phenotype of AR-ERβ+p53+ tumours was associated with poorer OS (HR 1.543, 95%CI 1.030 to 2.310, p=0.035). Higher AR mRNA levels were significantly associated with favourable OS (p=0.015) and survival after metastasis (p=0.027).

Conclusions: Metastatic TNBC harboured aggressive behaviour and displayed predominantly visceral metastasis with most metastatic events occurring without intervening local recurrences. A combinational phenotype of AR-ERβ+p53+ was significantly associated with poorer OS.