Background: Invasive micropapillary carcinoma (IMPC) of the breast is a rare subtype of breast cancer that is associated with a high incidence of regional lymph node metastases and a poor clinical outcome. However, the clinico-pathological features and prognostic factors of IMPC are not well understood.
Patients and methods: A total of 188 IMPC cases and 1,289 invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) cases were included. The clinical features, breast cancer-specific survival (BCSS) and recurrence/metastasis-free survival (RFS) of the patients were compared between these two groups.
Results: The IMPC patients exhibited more features of aggressive carcinoma than the IDC patients, including larger tumor size, higher tumor stage, a greater proportion of nodal involvement and an increased incidence of lymphovascular invasion. Patients with IMPC had lower 5-year BCSS and RFS rates (75.9% and 67.1%, respectively) than patients with IDC (89.5% and 84.5%, respectively). Compared to IDC patients, the patients with IMPC had a significantly higher percentage of stage III breast cancer (51.3% versus 21.7%). In a stage-matched Kaplan-Meier analysis, the patients with stage III IMPC had lower 5-year BCSS and RFS rates than patients with stage III IDC (BCSS, P = 0.004; RFS, P = 0.034). A multivariate analysis revealed that TNM stage was an independent prognostic factor for patients with IMPC. The proportion of cancers with a luminal-like subtype was significantly higher in IMPC than in IDC (P<0.001). However, after matching by molecular subtype, the patients with IMPC had significantly worse clinical outcomes than patients with IDC.
Conclusions: In Chinese women, IMPCs displayed more aggressive behaviors than IDCs, resulting in poorer clinical outcomes for patients with IMPC, regardless of a favorable molecular subtype. Our findings illustrate that the poorer survival of patients with IMPC might be due to an increased incidence and aggressiveness of tumors in TNM stage III.