Preoperative core needle biopsy is accurate in determining molecular subtypes in invasive breast cancer

BMC Cancer. 2013 Aug 19;13:390. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-13-390.


Background: Estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PgR), HER2, and Ki67 have been increasingly evaluated by core needle biopsy (CNB) and are recommended for classifying breast cancer into molecular subtypes. However, the concordance rate between CNB and open excision biopsy (OEB) has not been well documented.

Methods: Patients with paired CNB and OEB samples from Oct. 2009 to Feb. 2012 in Ruijin Hospital were included. ER, PgR, HER2, and Ki67 were determined by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Patients with HER2 IHC 2+ were further examined by FISH. Cutoff value for Ki67 high expression was 14%. Molecular subtypes were constructed as follows: Luminal A, Luminal B, Triple Negative, and HER2 positive.

Results: There were 298 invasive breast cancer patients analyzed. Concordance rates for ER, PgR, and HER2 were 93.6%, 85.9%, and 96.3%, respectively. Ki67 expression was slightly higher in OEB than in CNB samples (29.3% vs. 26.8%, P = 0.046). Good agreement (κ = 0.658) was demonstrated in evaluating molecular subtypes between CNB and OEB, with a concordance rate of 77.2%. We also used a different Ki67 cutoff value (20%) for determining Luminal A and B subtypes in HR (hormone receptor) +/HER2- diseases and the overall concordance rate was 79.2%. However, using a cut-point of Ki67 either 14% or 20% for both specimens, there will be about 14% of HR+/HER2- specimens that are called Luminal A on CNB and Luminal B on OEB.

Conclusion: CNB was accurate in determining ER, PgR, and HER2 status as well as non-Luminal molecular subtypes in invasive breast cancer. Ki67 should be retested on OEB samples in HR+/HER2- patients to accurately distinguish Luminal A from B tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Large-Core Needle
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Preoperative Care
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tumor Burden
  • Young Adult


  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2