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Triple negative breast cancer: proposals for a pragmatic definition and implications for patient management and trial design

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Nicola CurtinORCiD


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In trials in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), oestrogen and progesterone receptor negativity should be defined as < 1% positive cells. Negativity is a ratio of <2 between Her2 gene copy number and centromere of chromosome 17 or a copy number of 4 or less. In routine practice, immunohistochemistry is acceptable given stringent quality assurance. Triple negativity emerging after neoadjuvant treatment differs from primary TN and such patients should not enter TNBC trials. Patients relapsing with TN metastases should be eligible even if their primary was positive. Rare TN subtypes such as apocrine, adenoid-cystic and low-grade metaplastic tumours should be excluded. TN and basal-like (BL) signatures overlap but are not equivalent. Since the significance of basal cytokeratin or EGFR overexpression is not known and we lack validated assays, these features should not be used to subclassify TN tumours. Tissue collection in trials is mandatory so the effect on outcome of different tumour phenotypes and BRCA mutation can be explored. No prospective studies have established that TN tumours have particular sensitivity or resistance to any specific chemotherapy agent or radiation. TNBC patients should be treated according to tumour and clinical characteristics.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Eiermann W, Bergh J, Cardoso F, Conte P, Crown J, Curtin NJ, Gligorov J, Gusterson B, Joensuu H, Linderholm BK, Martin M, Penault-Llorca F, Pestalozzi BC, Razis E, Sotiriou C, Tjulandin S, Viale G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Breast

Year: 2012

Volume: 21

Issue: 1

Pages: 20-26

Print publication date: 08/10/2011

ISSN (print): 0960-9776

ISSN (electronic): 1532-3080

Publisher: Churchill Livingstone


DOI: 10.1016/j.breast.2011.09.006


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