Purpose: In the adjuvant treatment of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer, additional markers are needed to identify women at high risk for recurrence.
Experimental design: We examined the association between the ratio of the homeobox 13 (HOXB13) to interleukin-17B receptor (IL-17BR) expression and the clinical outcomes of relapse and survival in women with ER-positive breast cancer enrolled onto a North Central Cancer Treatment Group adjuvant tamoxifen trial (NCCTG 89-30-52).
Results: Tumor blocks were obtained from 211 of 256 eligible patients, and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR profiles for HOXB13 and IL-17BR were obtained from 206 patients. The cut point for the two-gene log 2(expression ratio) that best discriminated clinical outcome (recurrence and survival) was selected and identified women with significantly worse relapse-free survival (RFS), disease-free survival (DFS), and overall survival (OS), independent of standard prognostic markers. The cut point differed as a function of nodal status [node negative (59th percentile) versus node positive (90th percentile)]. In the node-positive cohort (n = 86), the HOXB13/IL-17BR ratio was not associated with relapse or survival. In contrast, in the node-negative cohort (n = 130), a high HOXB13/IL-17BR ratio was associated with significantly worse RFS [hazard ratio (HR), 1.98; P = 0.031], DFS (HR, 2.03; P = 0.015), and OS (HR, 2.4; P = 0.014), independent of standard prognostic markers.
Conclusion: A high HOXB13/IL-17BR expression ratio is associated with increased relapse and death in patients with resected node-negative, ER-positive breast cancer treated with tamoxifen and may identify patients in whom alternative therapies should be studied.