Expression of Bcl-2 in node-negative breast cancer is associated with various prognostic factors, but does not predict response to one course of perioperative chemotherapy

H. J. van Slooten, P. C. Clahsen, J. H. van Dierendonck, C. Duval, C. Pallud, A. M. Mandard, A. Delobelle-Deroide, C. J. van de Velde, M. J. van de Vijver

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The aim of this study was to assess relationships between Bcl-2 expression, response to chemotherapy and a number of pathological and biological tumour parameters in premenopausal, lymph node-negative breast cancer patients. Expression of Bcl-2 was determined using immunohistochemistry on paraffin-embedded sections in a series of 441 premenopausal, lymph node-negative breast cancers of patients randomised to receive perioperative chemotherapy (5-fluorouracil, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide) or no perioperative chemotherapy. Immunohistochemistry of Bcl-2 was evaluated by scoring both staining intensity (0-3) and number of positive cells (0-2). Using these scores tumours were grouped into categories 0-6. It was found that 9.2% of the tumours were completely negative (0), 17.2% weakly (1 + 2), 41.6% moderately (3 + 4) and 31.9% strongly positive (5 + 6) for Bcl-2. A positive correlation was found between high Bcl-2 expression and oestrogen (P <0.001) and progesterone receptor positivity (P <0.001) and low tumour grade (P <0.001), whereas high Bcl-2 expression was negatively correlated with p53 (P <0.001) and c-erb-B-2 positively (P <0.001), high Ki-67 index (P <0.001), mitotic index (P <0.001) and large tumour size (P = 0.006). Patients with tumours expressing high levels of Bcl-2 (overall score 3-6) had a significantly better disease-free (P = 0.004) and overall (P = 0.009) survival. However, in a multivariate model this association no longer remained significant. There was a trend for an effect of adjuvant chemotherapy on disease-free survival both for patients with Bcl-2-positive (HR-0.61, 95% CI 0.35-1.06, P = 0.07) and negative (HR = 0.55, 95% CI 0.27-1.12, P = 0.09) breast tumours at a median follow-up of 49 months. The level of Bcl-2 expression does not seem to predict response to perioperative chemotherapy in premenopausal, lymph node-negative breast cancer patients. High levels of Bcl-2 are preferentially expressed in well-differentiated tumours and are associated with favourable prognosis. However, Bcl-2 expression is not an independent prognostic factor in this patient series
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-85
JournalBritish journal of cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996

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