Purpose: The proliferation marker Ki-67 has been used as a prognostic marker to separate low- and high-risk breast cancer subtypes and guide treatment decisions for adjuvant chemotherapy. The association of Ki-67 with response to tamoxifen therapy is unclear. High-throughput automated scoring of Ki-67 might enable standardization of quantification and definition of clinical cut-off values. We hypothesized that digital image analysis (DIA) of Ki-67 can be used to evaluate proliferation in breast cancer tumors, and that Ki-67 may be associated with tamoxifen resistance in early-stage breast cancer.
Patients and methods: Here, we apply DIA technology from Visiopharm using a custom designed algorithm for quantifying the expression of Ki-67, in a case-control study nested in the Danish Breast Cancer Group clinical database, consisting of stages I, II, or III breast cancer patients of 35-69 years of age, diagnosed during 1985-2001, in the Jutland peninsula, Denmark. We assessed DIA-Ki-67 score on tissue microarrays (TMAs) from breast cancer patients in a case-control study including 541 ER-positive and 300 ER-negative recurrent cases and their non-recurrent controls, matched on ER-status, cancer stage, menopausal status, year of diagnosis, and county of residence. We used logistic regression to estimate odds ratios and associated 95% confidence intervals to determine the association of Ki-67 expression with recurrence risk, adjusting for matching factors, chemotherapy, type of surgery, receipt of radiation therapy, age category, and comorbidity.
Results: Ki-67 was not associated with increased risk of recurrence in tamoxifen-treated patients (ORadj =0.72, 95% CI 0.54, 0.96) or ER-negative patients (ORadj =0.85, 95% CI 0.54, 1.34).
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that Ki-67 digital image analysis in TMAs is not associated with increased risk of recurrence among tamoxifen-treated ER-positive breast cancer or ER-negative breast cancer patients. Overall, our findings do not support an increased risk of recurrence associated with Ki-67 expression.
Keywords: DIA; Ki-67; TMA; breast cancer; digital image analysis; proliferation; recurrence risk; tamoxifen; tissue microarray.
© 2020 Egeland et al.