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Flow cytometry in primary breast cancer: improving the prognostic value of the fraction of cells in the S-phase by optimal categorisation of cut-off levels

  • H Sigurdsson
  • Bo Baldetorp
  • Åke Borg
  • M Dalberg
  • Mårten Fernö
  • Dick Killander
  • Håkan Olsson
  • J Ranstam
Publishing year: 1990
Language: English
Pages: 786-790
Publication/Series: British Journal of Cancer
Volume: 62
Issue: 5
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group

Abstract english

The use of continuous prognostic variables is clinically impractical, and arbitrarily chosen cut-off points can result in a loss of prognostic information. Here we report findings from a study of primary breast cancer, showing how the prognostic value of the fraction of cells in the S-phase of the cell cycle (SPF), as measured by flow cytometry, can be affected by the SPF cut-off level(s) adopted. It was possible to evaluate the SPF in 566 (94%) of 603 consecutive cases where fresh frozen specimens were available in a tumour bank at our department. Clinically, all patients were without distant spread at the time of diagnosis, and the median duration of follow-up was 4 years. Using different survival end-points and chi 2 values for each cut-off level, two optimal cut-off points, at the 7% and 12% levels, were consistently obtained for the SPF. Furthermore, both disease-free survival and the relative risk of recurrence exhibited a non-linear relationship with SPF values; the curves implied that the prognosis was better among patients with SPF values about 2-5% than in patients with lower SPF values (parabolic shape), though the relationship with higher SPF values approached linearity. The non-linearity of the curves is incompatible with the general use of the median SPF as a prognostic cut-off value. An alternative procedure might be to use two cut-off levels, one to distinguish patients with the lowest SPF values (i.e. within the parabolic survival curve) from those with higher values (i.e. with a survival curve approaching linearity), the other to distinguish between patients with intermediate SPF values and those with high values (i.e. within the almost linear part of the survival curve). The 7% and 12% obtained here would be suitable for this purpose. We conclude that prognostic information can be gained by dividing the SPF into three prognostic categories (less than 7.0%, 7.0-11.9% and greater than or equal to 12%), instead of using the median SPF level.


  • Cancer and Oncology


  • ISSN: 1532-1827
Åke Borg
Åke Borg
E-mail: ake [dot] borg [at] med [dot] lu [dot] se

Principal investigator

Oncology and Pathology, MV

+46 46 275 25 52

MV 404 C21B2


Project manager

Familial Breast Cancer



Oncology and Pathology, MV

MV 404 C21C2