Identifying an early treatment window for predicting breast cancer response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy using immunohistopathology and hemoglobin parameters

Breast Cancer Res. 2018 Jun 14;20(1):56. doi: 10.1186/s13058-018-0975-1.


Background: Breast cancer pathologic complete response (pCR) to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) varies with tumor subtype. The purpose of this study was to identify an early treatment window for predicting pCR based on tumor subtype, pretreatment total hemoglobin (tHb) level, and early changes in tHb following NAC.

Methods: Twenty-two patients (mean age 56 years, range 34-74 years) were assessed using a near-infrared imager coupled with an Ultrasound system prior to treatment, 7 days after the first treatment, at the end of each of the first three cycles, and before their definitive surgery. Pathologic responses were dichotomized by the Miller-Payne system. Tumor vascularity was assessed from tHb; vascularity changes during NAC were assessed from a percentage tHb normalized to the pretreatment level (%tHb). After training the logistic prediction models using the previous study data, we assessed the early treatment window for predicting pathological response according to their tumor subtype (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), estrogen receptor (ER), triple-negative (TN)) based on tHb, and %tHb measured at different cycles and evaluated by the area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve (AUC).

Results: In the new study cohort, maximum pretreatment tHb and %tHb changes after cycles 1, 2, and 3 were significantly higher in responder Miller-Payne 4-5 tumors (n = 13) than non-or partial responder Miller-Payne 1-3 tumors (n = 9). However, no significance was found at day 7. The AUC of the predictive power of pretreatment tHb in the cohort was 0.75, which was similar to the performance of the HER2 subtype as a single predictor (AUC of 0.78). A greater predictive power of pretreatment tHb was found within each subtype, with AUCs of 0.88, 0.69, and 0.72, in the HER2, ER, and TN subtypes, respectively. Using pretreatment tHb and cycle 1 %tHb, AUC reached 0.96, 0.91, and 0.90 in HER2, ER, and TN subtypes, respectively, and 0.95 regardless of subtype. Additional cycle 2 %tHb measurements moderately improved prediction for the HER2 subtype but did not improve prediction for the ER and TN subtypes.

Conclusions: By combining tumor subtypes with tHb, we predicted the pCR of breast cancer to NAC before treatment. Prediction accuracy can be significantly improved by incorporating cycle 1 and 2 %tHb for the HER2 subtype and cycle 1 %tHb for the ER and TN subtypes.

Trial registration:, NCT02092636 . Registered in March 2014.

Keywords: Near infrared imaging; Personalized medicine; Predicting neoadjuvant chemotherapy; Ultrasound-guided optical imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage*
  • Breast / drug effects*
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hemoglobins
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2

Associated data