Purpose: To compare the clinical features, natural history, and outcomes for women with "triple-negative" breast cancer with women with other types of breast cancer.
Experimental design: We studied a cohort of 1,601 patients with breast cancer, diagnosed between January 1987 and December 1997 at Women's College Hospital in Toronto. Triple-negative breast cancers were defined as those that were estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative, and HER2neu negative. The prognostic significance of triple-negative breast cancer was explored.
Results: The median follow-up time of the 1,601 women was 8.1 years. One hundred and eighty of 1,601 patients (11.2%) had triple-negative breast cancer. Compared with other women with breast cancer, those with triple-negative breast cancer had an increased likelihood of distant recurrence (hazard ratio, 2.6; 95% confidence interval, 2.0-3.5; P < 0.0001) and death (hazard ratio, 3.2; 95% confidence interval, 2.3-4.5; P < 0.001) within 5 years of diagnosis but not thereafter. The pattern of recurrence was also qualitatively different; among the triple-negative group, the risk of distant recurrence peaked at approximately 3 years and declined rapidly thereafter. Among the "other" group, the recurrence risk seemed to be constant over the period of follow-up.
Conclusions: Triple-negative breast cancers have a more aggressive clinical course than other forms of breast cancer, but the adverse effect is transient.