Comparison of prognostic gene profiles using qRT-PCR in paraffin samples: a retrospective study in patients with early breast cancer

PLoS One. 2009 Jun 15;4(6):e5911. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005911.


Introduction: Gene profiling may improve prognostic accuracy in patients with early breast cancer, but this technology is not widely available. We used commercial assays for qRT-PCR to assess the performance of the gene profiles included in the 70-Gene Signature, the Recurrence Score and the Two-Gene Ratio.

Methods: 153 patients with early breast cancer and a minimum follow-up of 5 years were included. All tumours were positive for hormonal receptors and 38% had positive lymph nodes; 64% of patients received adjuvant chemotherapy. RNA was extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) specimens using a specific kit. qRT-PCR amplifications were performed with TaqMan Gene Expression Assays products. We applied the three gene-expression-based models to our patient cohort to compare the predictions derived from these gene sets.

Results: After a median follow-up of 91 months, 22% of patients relapsed. The distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) at 5 years was calculated for each profile. For the 70-Gene Signature, DMFS was 95% -good prognosis- versus 66% -poor prognosis. In the case of the Recurrence Score, DMFS was 98%, 81% and 69% for low, intermediate and high-risk groups, respectively. Finally, for the Two-Gene Ratio, DMFS was 86% versus 70%. The 70-Gene Signature and the Recurrence Score were highly informative in identifying patients with distant metastasis, even in multivariate analysis.

Conclusion: Commercially available assays for qRT-PCR can be used to assess the prognostic utility of previously published gene expression profiles in FFPE material from patients with early breast cancer. Our results, with the use of a different platform and with different material, confirm the robustness of the 70-Gene Signature and represent an independent test for the Recurrence Score, using different primer/probe sets.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Recurrence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*