Prognostic relevance of histological grade and its components node-negative breast cancer patients

Annalisa Volpi, Francesco Bacci, Angelo Paradiso, Luca Saragoni, Emanuela Scarpi, Monica Ricci, Mirella Aldi, Simonetta Bianchi, Pietro Muretto, Fiorella Nuzzo, Gianni Simone, Anita Mangia, Francesco Schittulli, Dino Amadori

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Available results highlight the lack of good level of evidence studies on the pure prognostic value of histological grade. In the present study, the prognostic relevance of histological grade and of its three components, tubule formation, nuclear pleomorphism and mitotic count, was analyzed in a series of 372 patients with node-negative breast cancer treated with locoregional therapy alone until early relapse. Histological grade was determined blindly by two observers and discordance between evaluations was resolved after joint review using a multihead microscope. No relation was observed between histological grade and any of its three components and disease-free survival. Conversely, a significant relation was observed between histological grade and distant metastasis-free survival (at 6 years, 94, 86 and 76% for grades 1, 2 and 3, respectively, P = 0.013) as well as overall survival (98, 90 and 86%, P = 0.001). A breakdown analysis as a function of the three components showed that neither tubule formation nor nuclear pleomorphism was associated with prognosis, and only mitotic count strongly influenced both distant metastasis-free survival (91, 82 and 74%, P = 0.014.) and overall survival (97, 87 and 85%, P = 0.011). Histological grade suffers from a much higher subjectivity than any other microscopic evaluation of blomarkers as it is the sum of three different morphological features. Within the Italian Network for Quality Assessment of Tumor Biomarkers program we observed that histological grade is an independent prognostic variable, but also that this role is ascribable only to the number of mitotic figures. In conclusion, due to the ever smaller size of diagnosed breast cancers, resulting in less cancer tissue for biofunctional and molecular analysis, mitotic count evaluated under strict quality control conditions seems to be an accurate and feasible prognostic variable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1038-1044
Number of pages7
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004


  • Histological grade
  • Mitotic count
  • Node-negative breast cancer
  • Prognosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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