Sequential estrogen receptor determinations from primary breast cancer and at relapse: Prognostic and therapeutic relevance

V. Spataro, K. Price, A. Goldhirsch, F. Cavalli, E. Simoncini, M. Castiglione, C. M. Rudenstam, J. Collins, J. Lindtner, R. D. Gelber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We retrospectively evaluated 401 selected patients who had estrogen receptor (ER) assays both at primary surgery and at relapse in an accessible site to determine the clinical relevance of the subsequent ER determination. The median time between ER assessments was 27 months (range: 2-122 months). The median follow-up time from diagnosis was 6 years (range: 2-12 years). For patients with ER+ tumors at primary diagnosis, 29% (76/261) had ER- tumors at relapse, while for ER- primaries, the conversion rate was 33% (46/140). Conversions from ER+ to ER- occurred more often when the time interval between assays was less than one year (p = 0.004), while conversions from ER- to ER+ tended to occur late (beyond three years; p = 0.0003). Treatments received between assays (usually adjuvant therapy) had only a slight influence on ER status conversion. Post-relapse survival was poor for patients who had the biopsy accessible recurrence within one year; an expression of the aggressive nature of the disease. Among patients whose accessible relapse was beyond one year, those with ER- primaries who converted to ER+ had a longer survival than those whose recurrence was classified again as ER- (p = 0.006). This group of patients with ER- primaries who recurred beyond one year with an ER+ tumor in an accessible site represented 29% (40/140) of all patients with ER- primaries, and had an estimated overall survival rate of more than 60% at 6 years from the accessible relapse. ER determination upon relapse within one year has very little clinical relevance. We conclude that, based on an experience in a selected population, reassessment of ER status upon relapse is of little clinical value for patients who recur within one year from initial diagnosis, but is important for patients who recur beyond one year especially for those with ER- primaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-740
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Hematology


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