Purpose: To assess the value of changes in the expression of topoisomerase IIalpha (TopoII) and the proto-oncogene erbB-2 (HER-2) as predictors of relapse-free survival in women with operable breast cancer treated with anthracycline-based neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
Patients and methods: Seventy-seven patients with primary breast cancer who had undergone neoadjuvant anthracycline-based chemotherapy were included in the present study. TopoII and HER-2 were measured by immunohistochemistry in prechemotherapy and postchemotherapy (at the time of surgery) tumor specimens, and the value of their changes as predictors of relapse-free survival were evaluated by Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional hazard regression analyses.
Results: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy resulted in a significant reduction in the percentage of cells expressing TopoII (P < 0.0001). No significant change was observed for HER-2. TopoII and HER-2 expression before chemotherapy predicted tumor response to treatment. Changes in TopoII expression after chemotherapy were strongly associated with a poor relapse-free survival (P < 0.0001) in a Cox multivariate analysis adjusted for other clinicopathologic prognostic factors.
Conclusion: Changes in TopoII expression after anthracycline-based neoadjuvant chemotherapy is an independent predictor of a poor relapse-free survival in patients with breast cancer. Tumor cells displaying an increased TopoII expression after treatment may be responsible for relapses, and may, therefore, define a group of patients with anthracycline-resistant breast cancer.