Histological grade is one of the most important prognostic factors in breast carcinomas, but poorly differentiated neoplasms still have quite heterogeneous biological behaviour, since they can be genetically classified as basal-like, HER2+ or even luminal. The aim was to analyse the frequency of oestrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and HER2 expression profiles among breast carcinomas with <10% tubular formation, and their correlation with classic prognostic factors.
One hundred and thirty-four samples of paraffin-embedded tumours were studied retrospectively. The tumours were classified in to four groups by their ER/PR/HER2 profile: (i) ER+ and/or PR+ but HER2-; (ii) ER+ and/or PR+ and HER2+; (iii) ER- and/or PR- but HER2+; and (iv) ER-, PR- and HER2- (triple-negative). The histological features of triple-negative and HER2+ carcinomas overlap. The only difference was the expression of basal cytokeratins (basal CK), which was more frequent among triple-negative carcinomas. Basal-CK expression defined a more aggressive group of tumours, according to the pathological features, regardless of the immunohistochemical profile.
Group 1 and 2 tumours (ER+ and/or PR+ tumours with or without HER2 expression) were not statistically different, suggesting that poorly differentiated carcinomas with hormone receptors correspond to the luminal B type of tumour. Among poorly differentiated breast carcinomas, the classic profile associated with basal-CK identifies distinct subtypes equivalent to those seen by genetic classification.