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Multifocality or multicentricity in breast cancer may be defined as the presence of two or more tumor foci within a single quadrant of the breast or within different quadrants of the same breast, respectively. This original classification of the breast cancer as multicentric or multifocal was based on the assumption that cancers arising in the same quadrant were more likely to arise from the same ductal structures than those occurring in separate areas of the breast. The problem with these definitions is that the “quadrants” of the breast are arbitrary external designations, as no internal boundaries do exist. This project will therefore focus both on synchronous multifocal and multicentric tumors. The incidence of multifocal and multicentric breast cancers was reported to be between 13 and 75% depending on the definition used, the extent of the pathologic sampling of the breast and whether in situ disease is considered evidence of multicentricity (1). Although this incidence is variable, those figures show that it is a frequent phenomenon. Multiple (multifocal/multicentric) breast carcinomas, especially when occurring in the same breast, represent a real challenge for both pathologists and clinicians in terms of identifying the cellular origin and the best therapeutic management of the cancer. Multifocality or multicentricity has been associated with a number of more aggressive features including an increased rate of regional lymph node metastases and adverse patient outcome when compared with unifocal tumors (2-3), and a possible increased risk of local recurrence following breast conserving surgery (4). For the moment, the literature is divided on whether there is a corresponding impact on survival outcomes. Today, the current convention to stage and to treat multifocal and multicentric tumors is the classical tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging guidelines with which tumor size is assessed by the largest tumor focus without taking other foci of disease into consideration. If some papers, as the recent one from Lynch and colleagues, support the current staging convention (3), others, however, as Boyages et al. suggested that aggregate size and not the size of the largest lesion should be considered in order to refine the prognostic assessment of those tumors (5). On the top of that, the question whether multifocal/multicentric carcinomas are due to the spread of a single carcinoma throughout the breast or is due to multiple carcinomas arising simultaneously has been a matter of debate. Some studies suggested that multifocal breast cancer may result from either intramammary spread from a single primary tumor or multiple synchronous primary tumors; whereas others suggest that multiple breast carcinomas always arise from the same clone (6-8). Recently, Pietri and colleagues analyzed the biological characterization of a series of 113 multifocal/multicentric breast cancers (8) which were diagnosed over a 5-year period. The expression of estrogen (ER) and progesterone (PgR) receptors, Ki-67 proliferative index, expression of HER2 and tumor grading were prospectively determined in each tumor focus, and mismatches among foci were recorded. Mismatches in ER status were present in 5 (4.4%) cases and PgR in 18 (15.9%) cases. Mismatches in tumor grading were present in 21 cases (18.6%), proliferative index (Ki-67) in 17 (15%) cases and HER2 status in 11 (9.7%) cases. Interestingly, this heterogeneity among foci has led to 14 (12.4%) patients receiving different adjuvant treatments compared with what would have been indicated if we had only taken into account the biologic status of the primary tumor. This study therefore showed that differences in biological characteristics of multifocal/multicentric lesions play a crucial role in the adjuvant treatment decision making process. In this study, we will concentrate on a larger series of patients with multifocal invasive ductal breast cancer lesions. We aim at: 1. Evaluating the incidence of multifocality according to the different breast cancer molecular subtypes (ER-/HER2-, HER2+, ER+/HER2-). 2. Evaluating the incidence of multifocality in patients with hereditary breast cancer disease (presence of germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations). Moreover, we would like to investigate if multifocal lesions with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations exhibit a characteristic combination of substitution mutation signatures and a distinctive profile of deletions as demonstrated recently by Nik-Zainal and colleagues (9). 3. Correlating multifocality with clinical information in order to define its influence on patients’ survival (DFS and OS). 4. Carrying high coverage targeted gene sequencing of driver cancer genes and genes whose mutation is of therapeutic importance in order to compare clinically-relevant genetic differences between several multifocal breast cancer lesions. 5. Evaluating the impact of the distance between the different lesions on the clinical outcome but also on the genetic differences. 6. Comparing gene expression patterns between several multifocal breast cancer lesions and correlate them with the results of the targeted genes screen. 7. Characterizing the genomic and transcriptomic status of cancer related genes in metastatic lesions (local recurrence, positive lymph node or distant metastatic sites) from the same multifocal invasive ductal breast cancer patients in order to evaluate the consequence of genomic and transcriptomic heterogeneity of multifocal lesions on metastatic lesions. Multiple (multifocal/multicentric) breast carcinomas, especially when occurring in the same breast, represent a real challenge for both pathologists and clinicians in terms of identifying the cellular origin and the best therapeutic choice. This project has the potential to identify genetic/transcriptomic differences existing between several lesions constituting multifocal breast cancers, which in the routine clinical practice are usually considered to be homogeneous among them. We foresee validating significant results in a larger series of patients and this, in turn, could have a remarkable impact on the treatment and clinical management of multifocal breast cancers. Indeed, we hope to provide some evidence whether or not each focus matters in multifocal and multicentric breast cancer to define the adequate therapeutic approach, especially in the context of targeted therapies. The work to be done at Sanger will be target gene screen pooling of 1400 samples.

Click on a Dataset ID in the table below to learn more, and to find out who to contact about access to these data

Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001000624 Illumina HiSeq 2000 908
EGAD00001001041 Illumina Genome Analyzer II Illumina HiSeq 2000 305