Background: In clinically node-negative (cN0) breast cancer patients with triple negative (TN) and HER2+ disease and breast pathological complete response (breast pCR), low rates of nodal positivity after neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) have been demonstrated. In these patients, the omission of surgical axillary staging has been proposed. However, this information is not routinely known preoperatively. We aimed to validate the correlation between pathologic breast response and pathologic nodal status, and evaluate the relationship between response of the breast tumor on MRI and pathologic nodal status after NAC in cN0 patients in the I-SPY2 trial.
Methods: We identified all patients with cT1-4 cN0 breast cancer prior to NAC from graduated arms of the I-SPY2 trial, a prospective neoadjuvant chemotherapy trial. Absence of residual disease post-NAC was defined as longest diameter (LD) of 0 mm on MRI. Breast pCR was defined as the absence of invasive tumor in the breast at surgery. Associations between ypN0 and patient, MRI, and tumor characteristics were assessed using chi-square tests and univariate regression.
Results: Of 365 cT1-4 cN0 patients included, 128 had HR+/HER2- tumors (35%), 60 HR+/HER2+ tumors (16%), 34 HR-/HER2+ tumors (9%) and 143 TN tumors (39%). Overall, 283 patients (78%) were ypN0 after NAC and 152 patients (42%) had a breast pCR. ypN0 rate was higher in patients with a breast pCR than those with residual disease (93% vs 66%, p<0.001). Patients with HR-/HER2+ and TN tumors were more likely to be ypN0 (97% and 87% respectively) than patients with HR+/HER2- and HR+/HER2+ disease (66% and 71% respectively, p<0.001). Other characteristics associated with ypN0 were tumor grade (grade I 57%, grade II 66%, grade III 84%; p=0.002), MammaPrint Classification (High Risk 1 68% and High Risk 2 87%; p<0.001) and absence of residual tumor in the breast on MRI (87% vs 72% in patients with evidence of tumor on MRI post-NAC/pre-surgery; p=0.003).
In patients with HR-/HER2+, HR+/HER2+, HR-/HER2+ or TN disease and a breast pCR, ypN0 rate was respectively 82%, 96%, 96% and 97% (table 1). In patients with HR+/HER2-, HR+/HER2+, HR-/HER2+ or TN disease and with no evidence of residual disease in the breast on MRI, rate of ypN0 was 71%, 80%, 94% and 96% respectively.
Conclusion: In cT1-4 cN0 breast cancer patients with HR+/HER2+, HR-/HER2+ and TN tumors and a breast pCR, ypN0 rates after NAC are extremely high. In patients with HR-/HER2+ and TN tumors with no residual breast disease on MRI after NAC and pre-surgery, ypN0 rates are high enough to consider omission of axillary surgery. In patients with HR+ tumors, MRI is unsufficiently predictive for pathological response and can therefore not be used to select ypN0 patients. Research on the prediction of ypN0 in cN+ I-SPY2 patients is ongoing.