St Gallen 2015 subtyping of luminal breast cancers: impact of different Ki67-based proliferation assessment methods

Cornelia M. Focke, Paul J. van Diest, Thomas Decker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Ki67 has been proposed as prognostic proliferation marker in luminal breast cancer (BC), but little is known on the influence of Ki67 assessment methods on subtyping into luminal A- and B-like tumors. Our aim was to study the influence of different Ki67-labeling index (Ki67-LI) assessment methods on the proportion of BCs classified as luminal A-like. 280 early BCs were subtyped according to the St Gallen 2015 definitions into 71 % luminal (HER2 negative), 6 % luminal B-like (HER2 positive), 13 % triple negative, 1 % HER2 positive (nonluminal), and 9 % special type. Digitized whole slides were counted manually on the screen. We used nine defined counting methods to assess the Ki67-LI (including the International Ki67 in Breast Cancer Working Group recommendations), and compared the resulting medians and the proportions of cancers classified as luminal A-like according to the formerly used cut-off <20 %. Methods assessing hot spots and tumor periphery resulted in significantly higher Ki67-LI medians than those measuring an average proliferation (27.45 % vs 16.96 %, p < 0.0001). Substantially lower median Ki67-LI were found when assessing 1020 compared to counting 100, 200, 300 cells (17.65 vs 33 %, vs 28 %, vs 24.33 %, respectively; p < 0.0001), or 510 cells (20.59 %, p = 0.019). Applying a standard Ki67-LI cut-off <20 % to define low proliferation for all methods, the proportion of luminal A-like cancers varied between 13 and 44 %. The proportion of BCs classified as luminal A-like is highly influenced by the Ki67-LI assessment method. As a consequence, the selection of a specific Ki67-LI assessment method may have a direct effect on the proportion of patients considered having low-risk disease and thus influence therapeutic decision making. This calls for a standardized assessment method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-263
Number of pages7
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Intrinsic subtyping
  • Ki67
  • Methodology
  • Proliferation
  • St Gallen consensus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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