Comprehensive clinical and molecular analyses of neuroendocrine carcinomas of the breast
Neuroendocrine breast carcinomas represent a rare subtype of breast cancer. Their definition, prevalence, and prognosis remain controversial in the literature. The 2012 WHO classification of breast cancer categorizes neuroendocrine carcinomas into three morphologically distinct subtypes: well-differentiated neuroendocrine tumors, poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinomas, and invasive breast carcinomas with neuroendocrine differentiation. We aimed to gain insight into the clinical, morphologic, phenotypic, and molecular features of 47 neuroendocrine breast carcinomas. Targeted next-generation sequencing by an AmpliSeq 22 cancer gene hotspot panel and the Prosigna assay were performed on 42/47 and 35/47 cases, respectively. Average age at diagnosis was 69 years. All tumors were estrogen receptor-positive and the large majority expressed progesterone receptor (89%), GATA3 (98%), FOXA1 (96%), and CK8/18 (98%). There was an almost equal distribution of luminal A (52%) and B (48%) carcinomas. Almost half of the cohort (49%) displayed a high risk of recurrence score with the Prosigna test. Patients with a neuroendocrine carcinoma had a shorter disease-free survival compared with those affected by carcinomas of no special type matched for age, size, grade, and estrogen receptor status. No significant differences were observed in terms of overall survival. Stratification of neuroendocrine carcinomas using the 2012 WHO criteria did not reveal statistically significant differences among the distinct categories (well-differentiated neuroendocrine tumors, poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinomas, and invasive breast carcinomas with neuroendocrine differentiation), in terms of either progression-free or overall survival. Our targeted sequencing analysis found three cases (7%) harboring a PIK3CA mutation, and in three other cases (7%) TP53 mutations were detected. This study showed that neuroendocrine breast carcinoma is a distinct subtype of luminal carcinoma with a low rate of PIK3CA mutations and with an aggressive clinical behavior. An accurate identification of neuroendocrine differentiation may be useful to better tailor patient adjuvant therapy within luminal carcinomas.