Beyond triple-negative breast cancer and African ancestry: Tumor phenotypes among internationally diverse patient populations

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

J Clin Oncol


Background: Population-based incidence rates of breast cancers that are negative for estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and HER2/neu(triple negative breast cancer {TNBC}) are higher among African American (AA) compared to White American (WA) women. Several studies show higher TNBC frequency among selected populations of African patients. The colonial-era trans-Atlantic slave trade resulted in shared West African ancestry between contemporary AA and Ghanaian (Gh) populations. The extent to which TNBC susceptibility is related to East African versus West African ancestry, and whether these associations extend to expression of other biomarkers such as Androgen Receptor (AR) and mammary stem cell marker ALDH1 is unknown.

Methods: We used immunohistochemistry to assess ER, PR, HER2/neu, AR and ALDH1 among WA (n = 153); AA (n = 76); Ethiopian (Eth)/East African (n = 90) and (Gh)/West African (n = 286) breast cancers through an IRB-approved international research program.

Results: Mean age at breast cancer diagnosis was 43; 49; 60; and 57 years for the Eth; Gh; AA; and WA patients, respectively. Frequency of TNBC was significantly higher for AA and Gh patients (54% and 41%, respectively) compared to WA and Eth patients (23% and 15%, respectively); p < 0.001. These associations were unchanged when limited to patients age 50 and younger (47% and 49% for AA and Gh, respectively; versus 18% and 16% for WA and Eth, respectively); p < 0.001. Frequency of ALDH1 positivity was also higher for tumors from AA and Gh patients (32% and 36%, respectively) compared to those from WA and Eth patients (23% and 17%, respectively); p = 0.007. Significant differences were observed for distribution of AR positivity, which was 71%; 55%; 42% and 50% for the WA; AA; Gh; and Eth cases, respectively (p = 0.008).

Conclusions: We found a correlation between extent of African ancestry and risk of particular BC phenotypes. West African ancestry was associated with increased risk of TNBC and breast cancers that are positive for ALDH1. Future studies of hereditary TNBC susceptibility among women with African ancestry are warranted.




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