Breast Cancer Prognosis and Occult Lymph Node Metastases, Isolated Tumor Cells, and Micrometastases

M. de Boer, J. A. A. M. van Dijck, P. Bult, George F. Borm, V. C. G. Tjan-Heijnen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The prognostic relevance of isolated tumor cells and micrometastases in lymph nodes from patients with breast cancer has become a major issue since the introduction of the sentinel lymph node procedure. We conducted a systematic review of this issue. Studies published from January 1, 1977, until August 11, 2008, were identified by use of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library. A total of 58 studies (total number of patients = 297 533) were included and divided into three categories according to the method for pathological assessment of the lymph nodes: cohort studies with single-section pathological examination of axillary lymph nodes (n = 285 638 patients), occult metastases studies with retrospective examination of negative lymph nodes by step sectioning and/or immunohistochemistry (n = 7740 patients), and sentinel lymph node biopsy studies with intensified work-up of the sentinel but not of the nonsentinel lymph nodes (n = 4155 patients). We used random-effects meta-analyses to calculate pooled estimates of the relative risks (RRs) of 5- and 10-year disease recurrence and death and the multivariably corrected pooled hazard ratio (HR) of overall survival of the cohort studies. In the cohort studies, the presence (vs the absence) of metastases of 2 mm or less in diameter in axillary lymph nodes was associated with poorer overall survival (pooled HR of death = 1.44, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.29 to 1.62). In the occult metastases studies, the presence (vs the absence) of occult metastases was associated with poorer 5-year disease-free survival (pooled RR = 1.55, 95% CI = 1.32 to 1.82) and overall survival (pooled RR = 1.45, 95% CI = 1.11 to 1.88), although these endpoints were not consistently assessed in multivariable analyses. Sentinel lymph node biopsy studies were limited by small patient groups and short follow-up. The presence (vs the absence) of metastases of 2 mm or less in diameter in axillary lymph nodes detected on single-section examination was associated with poorer disease-free and overall survival.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-425
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Volume102
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2010

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