Background There is the need to identify new prognostic markers to refine risk stratification for HER2-positive early breast cancer patients. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) with distant disease-free survival (DDFS) in patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer enrolled in the ShortHER adjuvant trial which compared 9 weeks versus 1-year trastuzumab in addition to chemotherapy, and to test the interaction between TILs and treatment arm. Patients and methods Stromal TILs were assessed for 866 cases on centralized hematoxylin and eosin-stained tumor slides. The association of TILs as 10% increments with DDFS was assessed with Cox models. Kaplan-Meier curves were estimated for patients with TILs ≥20% and TILs <20%. Median follow-up was 6.1 years. Results Median TILs was 5% (Q1-Q3 1%-15%). Increased TILs were independently associated with better DDFS in multivariable model [hazard ratio (HR) 0.73, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.59-0.89, P = 0.006, for each 10% TILs increment]. Five years DDFS rates were 91.1% for patients with TILs <20% and 95.7% for patients with TILs ≥20% (P = 0.025). The association between 10% TILs increments and DDFS was significant for patients randomized to 9 weeks of trastuzumab (HR 0.60, 95% CI 0.41-0.88) but not for patients treated with 1 year of trastuzumab (HR 0.89, 95% CI 0.71-1.12; test for interaction P = 0.088). For patients with TILs <20%, the HR for the comparison between the short versus the long arm was 1.75 (95% CI 1.09-2.80, P=0.021); whereas, for patients with TILs ≥20% the HR for the comparison of short versus long arm was 0.23 (95% CI 0.05-1.09, P = 0.064), resulting in a significant interaction (P = 0.015). Conclusions TILs are an independent prognostic factor for HER2-positive early breast cancer patients treated with adjuvant chemotherapy and trastuzumab and may refine the ability to identify patients at low risk of relapse eligible for de-escalated adjuvant therapy.
- early breast cancer
- HER2-positive breast cancer
- tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes
ASJC Scopus subject areas