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A.M. Domanski, N. Monsef, H.A. Domanski, D. Grabau and M. Fernö Comparison of the oestrogen and progesterone receptor status in primary breast carcinomas as evaluated by immunohistochemistry and immunocytochemistry: a consecutive series of 267 patients

Objective:  The use of cytological specimens to evaluate tumour biomarkers in metastatic breast cancer lesions has attracted increased interest because of the considerable number of reports that have shown discordance between the primary tumour and metastatic lesion. Oestrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PgR) assays are crucial for the management of patients with breast cancer, in both adjuvant and palliative settings. The aim of this study was to compare the ER and PgR immunocytochemical analysis of fine needle aspiration (FNA) samples with the immunohistochemistry (IHC) of surgical specimens and core biopsies from primary breast cancers.

Methods:  The FNA specimens were prepared as cell blocks (n = 25) or ThinPreps (n = 258) for the immunocytochemistry (IC) ER and PgR analyses. Sixteen patients were excluded because of lack of follow-up (n = 1), neoadjuvant therapy (n = 3) or cell counts in their fine needle aspirates that were too low (n = 12). The results of IC on 25 cell blocks and 242 ThinPreps were compared with IHC on the corresponding core needle biopsies (n = 16) or excised tumours (n = 251). The ER and PgR status was defined as negative (when less than 10% of the nuclei were stained) or positive (when equal or more than 10% of the nuclei were stained). Kappa statistics were used to evaluate the concordance.

Results:  The ER concordance was 98% with ThinPrep (κ = 0.93) and 92% with cell block (κ = 0.82). The corresponding values for PgR were 96% (κ = 0.91) and 96% (κ = 0.92).

Conclusions:  Our results confirm that, in cases in which biopsies or surgical specimens are not available, IC (with either cell block or ThinPrep techniques) is a reliable method for the determination of the ER and PgR status performed under strict conditions using primary breast carcinomas, and is therefore potentially useful in metastatic settings.