Long-term treatment patterns and survival in metastatic breast cancer by intrinsic subtypes - an observational cohort study in Sweden

BMC Cancer. 2022 Sep 22;22(1):1006. doi: 10.1186/s12885-022-10098-1.


Background: Longitudinal, real-world data on the management of metastatic breast cancer is increasingly relevant to understand breast cancer care in routine clinical practice. Yet such data are scarce, particularly beyond second- and third-line treatment strategies. This study, therefore, examined both the long-term treatment patterns and overall survival (OS) in a regional Swedish cohort of female patients with metastatic breast cancer stratified by subtype in routine clinical practice during a recent eight-year period and correlation to current treatment guidelines.

Methods: Consecutive female patients with metastatic breast cancer clinically managed at Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden, during 2009-2016 and followed until the end of September, 2017 (n = 370) were included and, where possible, classified as having one of five, intrinsic subtypes: Luminal A; Luminal B; human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive (HER2+)/ estrogen receptor-positive (ER+); HER2+/estrogen receptor-negative (ER-); or triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Treatment patterns and OS were estimated by subtype using time-to-event methods.

Results: A total of 352/370 patients with metastatic breast cancer (mean age 67.6 years) could be subtyped: 118 (34%) were Luminal A, 119 (34%) Luminal B, 31 (8%) HER2+/ER-, 38 (11%) HER2+/Luminal, and 46 (13%) TNBC. The median number of metastatic treatment lines was 3. Most patients were on active treatment during follow-up (80% of the observation period), except for patients with TNBC who were on treatment for 60% of the observation time. Overall, 67% of patients died whilst on treatment. Among all patients (n = 370), median OS was 32.5 months (95% CI = 28.2-35.7). The 5-year survival rate was highest for HER2+/Luminal (46%) patients, followed by Luminal B (29%), Luminal A (28%), HER2+/ER- (21%), and TNBC (7%). Increasing age and number of metastatic sites also predicted worse survival.

Conclusions: Metastatic breast cancer patients in Sweden, irrespective of subtype, generally receive active treatment until time of death. Survival varies considerably across subtypes and is also associated with patient characteristics. Regardless of differences in treatment patterns for Luminal A and B patients, long-term OS was the same.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Clinical practice; Cohort; Intrinsic subtypes; Observational data; Real world; Survival; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms* / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Receptor, ErbB-2