Evidence for the potent influence of stromal organization and function on invasion and metastasis of breast tumors is ever growing. We have performed a rigorous examination of the relationship of a tumor-associated collagen signature-3 (TACS-3) to the long-term survival rate of human patients. TACS-3 is characterized by bundles of straightened and aligned collagen fibers that are oriented perpendicular to the tumor boundary. An evaluation of TACS-3 was performed in biopsied tissue sections from 196 patients by second harmonic generation imaging of the backscattered signal generated by collagen. Univariate analysis of a Cox proportional hazard model demonstrated that the presence of TACS-3 was associated with poor disease-specific and disease-free survival, resulting in hazard ratios between 3.0 and 3.9. Furthermore, TACS-3 was confirmed to be an independent prognostic indicator regardless of tumor grade and size, estrogen or progesterone receptor status, human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 status, node status, and tumor subtype. Interestingly, TACS-3 was positively correlated to expression of stromal syndecan-1, a receptor for several extracellular matrix proteins including collagens. Because of the strong statistical evidence for poor survival in patients with TACS, and because the assessment can be performed in routine histopathological samples imaged via second harmonic generation or using picrosirius, we propose that quantifying collagen alignment is a viable, novel paradigm for the prediction of human breast cancer survival.
Copyright © 2011 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.