Reproducibility of mitosis counting in 2,469 breast cancer specimens: results from the Multicenter Morphometric Mammary Carcinoma Project

Hum Pathol. 1992 Jun;23(6):603-7. doi: 10.1016/0046-8177(92)90313-r.


The Multicenter Morphometric Mammary Carcinoma Project is a prospective study on the reproducibility and prognostic value of routine quantitative assessments, especially the mitotic activity index (MAI), the multivariate prognostic index (MPI; a combination of MAI, tumor size, and lymph node status), the mean nuclear area, and DNA ploidy assessments in patients with invasive breast cancer. Fourteen pathology laboratories providing routine services to 35 hospitals throughout The Netherlands are participating in this project. In this article, the reproducibility of MAI and MPI assessments is described. Assessment of the MAI was, according to a strict protocol, first performed in the participating laboratories; thereafter, slides were transferred to the coordination center in Amsterdam for quality control. Analysis of the reproducibility of the assessments in 2,469 patients showed correlation coefficients between 0.81 and 0.96 (mean, 0.91) for the MAI and between 0.91 and 0.97 (mean, 0.96) for the MPI. The reproducibility was fairly constant in time, although it showed a slight drop in the middle of the 2-year intake period. A prognostically relevant discrepancy in MPI (caused by differences in MAI) between the original and quality control assessments was found in only 7.2% of the cases. When analyzing the reasons for these discrepancies, a plausible explanation could be found in all cases: bad tissue processing and ignorance of or negligence in following the protocol guidelines for selection of the counting area or in the process of counting were the most important flaws. Since these errors are largely controllable, an even lower discrepancy rate is theoretically achievable. In conclusion, in a routine setting it can be learned, within a reasonable time, to perform mitosis counting in a highly reproducible way if a strict protocol is carefully followed. This opens the way for a wider application of the MAI and MPI in breast cancer patients. Motivation is, however, an important factor to obtain reproducible results, and ongoing quality control is essential to guarantee the reproducibility of the assessments.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Mitotic Index*
  • Quality Control
  • Reproducibility of Results