Automated mitotic spindle hotspot counts are highly associated with clinical outcomes in systemically untreated early-stage triple-negative breast cancer

R. Leon-Ferre, J. Carter, D. Zahrieh, J. Sinnwell, R. Salgado, V. Suman, D. Hillman, J. Boughey, K. Kalari, F. Couch, J. Ingle, M. Balkenhol, F. Ciompi, J. van der Laak and M. Goetz

npj Breast Cancer 2024;10.


AbstractOperable triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) has a higher risk of recurrence and death compared to other subtypes. Tumor size and nodal status are the primary clinical factors used to guide systemic treatment, while biomarkers of proliferation have not demonstrated value. Recent studies suggest that subsets of TNBC have a favorable prognosis, even without systemic therapy. We evaluated the association of fully automated mitotic spindle hotspot (AMSH) counts with recurrence-free (RFS) and overall survival (OS) in two separate cohorts of patients with early-stage TNBC who did not receive systemic therapy. AMSH counts were obtained from areas with the highest mitotic density in digitized whole slide images processed with a convolutional neural network trained to detect mitoses. In 140 patients from the Mayo Clinic TNBC cohort, AMSH counts were significantly associated with RFS and OS in a multivariable model controlling for nodal status, tumor size, and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) (p < 0.0001). For every 10-point increase in AMSH counts, there was a 16% increase in the risk of an RFS event (HR 1.16, 95% CI 1.08-1.25), and a 7% increase in the risk of death (HR 1.07, 95% CI 1.00-1.14). We corroborated these findings in a separate cohort of systemically untreated TNBC patients from Radboud UMC in the Netherlands. Our findings suggest that AMSH counts offer valuable prognostic information in patients with early-stage TNBC who did not receive systemic therapy, independent of tumor size, nodal status, and TILs. If further validated, AMSH counts could help inform future systemic therapy de-escalation strategies.