Purpose: The prognostic value of mitotic count for invasive breast cancer is firmly established. As yet, however, limited studies have been aimed at assessing mitotic counts as a prognostic factor for triple negative breast cancers (TNBC). Here, we assessed the prognostic value of absolute mitotic counts for TNBC, using both deep learning and manual procedures.
Methods: A retrospective TNBC cohort (n = 298) was used. The absolute manual mitotic count was assessed by averaging counts from three independent observers. Deep learning was performed using a convolutional neural network on digitized H&E slides. Multivariable Cox regression models for relapse-free survival and overall survival served as baseline models. These were expanded with dichotomized mitotic counts, attempting every possible cut-off value, and evaluated by means of the c-statistic.
Results: We found that per 2 mm2 averaged manual mitotic counts ranged from 1 to 187 (mean 37.6, SD 23.4), whereas automatic counts ranged from 1 to 269 (mean 57.6; SD 42.2). None of the cut-off values improved the models' baseline c-statistic, for both manual and automatic assessments.
Conclusions: Based on our results we conclude that the level of proliferation, as reflected by mitotic count, does not serve as a prognostic factor for TNBC. Therefore, TNBC patient management based on mitotic count should be discouraged.
Keywords: Artificial intelligence; Mitotic count; Prognosis; Triple negative breast cancer.