Prognostic value of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes in small HER2-positive breast cancer

Carmen Criscitiello, Vincenzo Bagnardi, Giancarlo Pruneri, Andrea Vingiani, Angela Esposito, Nicole Rotmensz, Giuseppe Curigliano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The standard treatment for patients with small, node-negative, human epidermal growth factor receptor type 2 (HER2)–positive breast cancer (BC) is still controversial. Our aim was to assess the prognostic role of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in patients with stage pT1a–b HER2-positive BC. Patients and methods Haematoxylin and eosin slides from node-negative, pT1a–b HER2-positive BC surgical specimens were retrieved from pathology archives to assess TILs and their association with outcome. Results TILs were evaluated in 205 patients with HER2-positive, pT1a–b tumours, who underwent breast surgery between 1997 and 2009 at the European Institute of Oncology. At a median follow-up of 11 years, we did not observe any association between the presence of TILs, either assessed as a continuous or dichotomous variable (<50 versus ≥ 50%), and outcome. Within the subgroup of patients with pT1a tumours who did not receive any adjuvant therapy (36/97 patients), the rate of disease-free survival events was lower in lymphocyte-predominant BC (LPBC) as compared with non-LPBC patients (p = 0.066). Conclusions TILs cannot be used as a prognostic biomarker in pT1a–b HER2-positive BC. Additional biomarkers are needed for selecting patients with stage I HER2-positive BC who candidate to adjuvant therapy de-escalation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-171
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2017


  • HER2
  • Stage pT1a–b breast cancer
  • Tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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