Chemotherapy-naïve, young patients with N0 TNBC with high sTILs (≥ 75%) have an excellent long-term prognosis. Therefore, sTILs should be considered for prospective clinical trials investigating (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy de-escalation strategies.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is considered aggressive, and therefore, virtually all young patients with TNBC receive (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy. Increased stromal tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (sTILs) have been associated with a favorable prognosis in TNBC. However, whether this association holds for patients who are node-negative (N0), young (< 40 years), and chemotherapy-naïve, and thus can be used for chemotherapy de-escalation strategies, is unknown.
sTILs were scored for 441 patients. High sTILs (≥ 75%; 21%) translated into an excellent prognosis with a 15-year cumulative incidence of a distant metastasis or death of only 2.1% (95% CI, 0 to 5.0), whereas low sTILs (< 30%; 52%) had an unfavorable prognosis with a 15-year cumulative incidence of a distant metastasis or death of 38.4% (32.1 to 44.6). In addition, every 10% increment of sTILs decreased the risk of death by 19% (adjusted hazard ratio: 0.81; 95% CI, 0.76 to 0.87), which are an independent predictor adding prognostic information to standard clinicopathologic variables (χ2 = 46.7, P < .001).
We selected all patients with N0 TNBC diagnosed between 1989 and 2000 from a Dutch population-based registry. Patients were age < 40 years at diagnosis and had not received (neo)adjuvant systemic therapy, as was standard practice at the time. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded blocks were retrieved (PALGA: Dutch Pathology Registry), and a pathology review including sTILs was performed. Patients were categorized according to sTILs (< 30%, 30%-75%, and ≥ 75%). Multivariable Cox regression was performed for overall survival, with or without sTILs as a covariate. Cumulative incidence of distant metastasis or death was analyzed in a competing risk model, with second primary tumors as competing risk.