Background: At present, node-negative, high-risk breast cancer patients cannot be identified with sufficient accuracy. Consequently, further strong prognostic factors are needed.
Methods: Among 181 node-negative breast cancer (NNBC) patients, c-myc and HER-2/neu oncogenes were identified prospectively using double differential PCR. The possible impact of amplification of those oncogenes on disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival was examined. Furthermore, the possible effects of adjuvant therapies on rate of recurrence and mortality in oncogene-amplified NNBC patients were investigated.
Results: The prevalence rates for amplification of c-myc and HER-2/neu were 21.5% and 30.4%, respectively. On univariate analysis, c-myc-amplified NNBCs were associated with significantly shorter DFS at 36 months after the initial diagnosis (85.3% versus 97.3%). As compared with nonamplified cancers, HER-2/neu-amplified NNBCs did not exhibit any significant differences after 36 months and 95 months. Multivariate analysis indicated that c-myc amplification and tumour size, in contrast to HER-2/neu amplification, oestrogen receptor status, grading and age, were the only independent parameters for DFS. During the period of observation, we found no evidence for an impact of amplification of the oncogenes on overall survival in all cases. With respect to various adjuvant systemic therapies such as chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, 5-fluorouracil; fluorouracil, epirubicin, cyclophosphamide) and endocrine therapy (tamoxifen), no significant differences were identified in oncogene-amplified NNBC patients in terms of DFS and overall survival. However, those c-myc-amplified NNBC patients who did not receive adjuvant systemic therapy exhibited significantly shorter DFS and overall survival as compared with c-myc-nonamplified patients.
Conclusion: C-myc amplification appears to be a strong prognostic marker with which to predict early recurrence in NNBC patients. C-myc-amplified NNBC patients without adjuvant systemic therapy experienced shorter DFS and overall survival.