Purpose: Current immunohistochemical (IHC)-based definitions of luminal A and B breast cancers are imperfect when compared with multigene expression-based assays. In this study, we sought to improve the IHC subtyping by examining the pathologic and gene expression characteristics of genomically defined luminal A and B subtypes.
Patients and methods: Gene expression and pathologic features were collected from primary tumors across five independent cohorts: British Columbia Cancer Agency (BCCA) tamoxifen-treated only, Grupo Español de Investigación en Cáncer de Mama 9906 trial, BCCA no systemic treatment cohort, PAM50 microarray training data set, and a combined publicly available microarray data set. Optimal cutoffs of percentage of progesterone receptor (PR) -positive tumor cells to predict survival were derived and independently tested. Multivariable Cox models were used to test the prognostic significance.
Results: Clinicopathologic comparisons among luminal A and B subtypes consistently identified higher rates of PR positivity, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) negativity, and histologic grade 1 in luminal A tumors. Quantitative PR gene and protein expression were also found to be significantly higher in luminal A tumors. An empiric cutoff of more than 20% of PR-positive tumor cells was statistically chosen and proved significant for predicting survival differences within IHC-defined luminal A tumors independently of endocrine therapy administration. Finally, no additional prognostic value within hormonal receptor (HR) -positive/HER2-negative disease was observed with the use of the IHC4 score when intrinsic IHC-based subtypes were used that included the more than 20% PR-positive tumor cells and vice versa.
Conclusion: Semiquantitative IHC expression of PR adds prognostic value within the current IHC-based luminal A definition by improving the identification of good outcome breast cancers. The new proposed IHC-based definition of luminal A tumors is HR positive/HER2 negative/Ki-67 less than 14%, and PR more than 20%.