Immunophenotype of lymphocytic infiltration in medullary carcinoma of the breast

Virchows Arch. 2005 Jan;446(1):10-4. doi: 10.1007/s00428-004-1143-9. Epub 2004 Nov 30.


Medullary carcinoma (MC) of the breast is characterized by large anaplastic cells and infiltration by benign lymphocytes. Patients with this pattern of breast carcinoma are considered to have a better prognosis than those with other histological subtypes. We reviewed cases of primary breast carcinoma that were surgically resected between 1990 and 2004. Of these, 13 cases of medullary carcinoma of the breast with lymphocyte infiltration were reported. Tests for CD3, CD4, CD8, CD20, CD56, TIA-1, and granzyme B were performed on paraffin sections. We found that the MC contained very few NK cells, as assessed by their reactivity with the CD56 antibodies. However, MC had a significantly greater percentage of CD3, CD8, TIA-1, and granzyme B lymphocytes infiltrating the stroma of the tumor. Furthermore, more CD8-positive than CD4-positive T-cell lymphocytes were present within the tumor cell nests in MC, as opposed to the proportion in usual ductal carcinoma. The infiltrating cytotoxic/suppressor T cells in MC represent host resistance against cancer, and the high grading of the T-cell infiltration could explain, in part, a key mechanism controlling the good prognosis for this type of tumor and solve the pathological paradox of MC.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • CD3 Complex / analysis
  • CD8 Antigens / analysis
  • Carcinoma, Medullary / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Poly(A)-Binding Proteins
  • Proteins / analysis
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • T-Cell Intracellular Antigen-1


  • CD3 Complex
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Poly(A)-Binding Proteins
  • Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • T-Cell Intracellular Antigen-1
  • TIA1 protein, human