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Systematically higher Ki67 scores on core biopsy samples compared to corresponding resection specimen in breast cancer: a multi-operator and multi-institutional study


Ki67 has potential clinical importance in breast cancer but has yet to see broad acceptance due to inter-laboratory variability. Here we tested an open source and calibrated automated digital image analysis (DIA) platform to: (i) investigate the comparability of Ki67 measurement across corresponding core biopsy and resection specimen cases, and (ii) assess section to section differences in Ki67 scoring. Two sets of 60 previously stained slides containing 30 core-cut biopsy and 30 corresponding resection specimens from 30 estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer patients were sent to 17 participating labs for automated assessment of average Ki67 expression. The blocks were centrally cut and immunohistochemically (IHC) stained for Ki67 (MIB-1 antibody). The QuPath platform was used to evaluate tumoral Ki67 expression. Calibration of the DIA method was performed as in published studies. A guideline for building an automated Ki67 scoring algorithm was sent to participating labs. Very high correlation and no systematic error (p = 0.08) was found between consecutive Ki67 IHC sections. Ki67 scores were higher for core biopsy slides compared to paired whole sections from resections (p ≤ 0.001; median difference: 5.31%). The systematic discrepancy between core biopsy and corresponding whole sections was likely due to pre-analytical factors (tissue handling, fixation). Therefore, Ki67 IHC should be tested on core biopsy samples to best reflect the biological status of the tumor.

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