Poor Outcome in Postpartum Breast Cancer Patients Is Associated with Distinct Molecular and Immunologic Features.



We found that patients with PP-BCPW having a low expression level of an immunoglobulin gene signature, but high infiltration of plasma B cells, have an increased risk for metastasis and death. Although PP-BCPW tumor tissue was also characterized by an increase in CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and reduced distance among these cell types, these parameters were not associated with differential clinical outcomes among groups.


These data point to the importance of plasma B cells in the postweaning mammary tumor microenvironment regarding the poor prognosis of PP-BCPW patients. Future prospective and in-depth research needs to further explore the role of B-cell immunobiology in this specific group of young patients with breast cancer.


We explored whether distinct prognostic features, common to all breast cancer molecular subtypes, exist in postpartum tumor tissue. Using detailed breastfeeding data, we delineated the postweaning period in PP-BC as a surrogate for mammary gland involution and performed whole transcriptome sequencing, immunohistochemical, and (multiplex) immunofluorescent analyses on tumor tissue of patients with PP-BCPW, PP-BCDL, Pr-BC, and NP-BC.


Patients with postpartum breast cancer diagnosed after cessation of breastfeeding (postweaning, PP-BCPW) have a particularly poor prognosis compared with patients diagnosed during lactation (PP-BCDL), or to pregnant (Pr-BC) and nulliparous (NP-BC) patients, regardless of standard prognostic characteristics. Animal studies point to a role of the involution process in stimulation of tumor growth in the mammary gland. However, in women, the molecular mechanisms that underlie this poor prognosis of patients with PP-BCPW remain vastly underexplored, due to of lack of adequate patient numbers and outcome data.

More about this publication

Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research
  • Volume 29
  • Issue nr. 18
  • Pages 3729-3743
  • Publication date 15-09-2023

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