Cell proliferation of the primary tumor predicts ipsilateral axillary node disease in elderly breast cancer patients

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The present study investigated whether tumor markers such as cell proliferation and steroid receptor status, which have been shown to have relevance for important endpoints (relapse-free and overall survival), can also predict axillary disease in elderly patients with breast cancer. We evaluated 351 consecutive elderly women with breast cancer ≥70 years of age with estrogen receptor (ER) positive tumors with no palpable axillary nodes, for whom information on cell proliferation determined by the 3H-thymidine labeling index (TLI) and progesterone receptor (PgR) was available. Patients underwent quadrantectomy (70.1%) or quadrantectomy plus radiotherapy (29.9%) without axillary node dissection, followed by adjuvant tamoxifen for at least 2 years. Univariable (cumulative incidence curves) and multivariable analyses (Fine and Gray models) were carried out. After a median follow-up of 16 years, ipsilateral axillary relapse was not related to PgR status but was strongly associated with tumor cell proliferation in both small (pT1) and large (pT2-4b) tumors. Axillary relapse cumulative incidence increased from 1% in patients with low-TLI (≤3%), PgR-positive and pT1 tumors to a maximum of 20% in patients with high-TLI, PgR-negative and pT2-4b tumors. Tumor cell proliferation, determined by TLI at primary surgery, is an important predictor of axillary relapse in elderly ER-positive breast cancer patients and could help to identify patients who should undergo axillary surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-31
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Markers
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • Breast cancer
  • Cell proliferation
  • Elderly patients
  • Ipsilateral axillary disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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