Tumor proliferation rate is an important prognostic factor in breast cancer, and S-phase fraction (SPF), as measured by flow cytometry, is the most clinically validated of several methods for measuring it. However, flow cytometry is not well suited to evaluating the formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumors that are routinely available or to the increasing number of small breast cancers. These and other limitations have motivated research into alternative methods for measuring proliferation, including immunohistochemistry (IHC) against cell cycle-related antigens, which are better suited for the evaluation of small archival tissue samples. Mitosin is a recently described 350 kD nuclear phosphoprotein that is expressed in the late G1, S, G2, and M phases of the cell cycle but not in G0. Using a new monoclonal antibody (14C10), this pilot study evaluated mitosin expression by IHC in a series of 386 node-negative, formalin-fixed, archival breast cancers and correlated the results with several prognostic factors and clinical outcome (median follow-up, 78 months; range 3–214 months). The median and range of mitosin positive cells were 7% and 1–47%, respectively. There was a strong positive correlation between mitosin and SPF (r = 0.57; P = 0.0001), and there were significant negative correlations with estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and patient age. Mitosin was not related to overall survival in this pilot study. However, in a univariate cutpoint analysis of disease-free survival (DFS), patients with high levels of mitosin (>9% positive cells) had significantly worse DFS than did patients with lower levels (68% versus 84% at 5 years, respectively). In a multivariate analysis of DFS, large tumor size (>2 cm) and high mitosin were the only independently significant predictors of recurrence (relative risks = 2.47 and 1.72, respectively) in a model containing the additional factors estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, patient age, and SPF. These preliminary results suggest that mitosin as assessed by IHC may be superior to SPF as a prognostic factor in node-negative breast cancer, but additional studies are necessary to validate these promising findings.

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This work was supported by NIH Grants P01 CA30195, P50 CA58183, and P30 CA54174.

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