Mitotic figure counts are significantly overestimated in resection specimens of invasive breast carcinomas

Lehr, Hans-Anton; Rochat, Candice; Schaper, Cornelia; Nobile, Antoine; Shanouda, Sherien; Vijgen, Sandrine; Gauthier, Arnaud; Obermann, Ellen; Leuba, Susana; Schmidt, Marcus; C, Curzio Ruegg; Delaloye, Jean-Francois; Simiantonaki, Nectaria; Schäfer, Stephan (2013). Mitotic figure counts are significantly overestimated in resection specimens of invasive breast carcinomas. Modern pathology, 26(3), pp. 336-342. Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/modpathol.2012.140

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Several authors have demonstrated an increased number of mitotic figures in breast cancer resection specimen when compared with biopsy material. This has been ascribed to a sampling artifact where biopsies are (i) either too small to allow formal mitotic figure counting or (ii) not necessarily taken form the proliferating tumor periphery. Herein, we propose a different explanation for this phenomenon. Biopsy and resection material of 52 invasive ductal carcinomas was studied. We counted mitotic figures in 10 representative high power fields and quantified MIB-1 immunohistochemistry by visual estimation, counting and image analysis. We found that mitotic figures were elevated by more than three-fold on average in resection specimen over biopsy material from the same tumors (20±6 vs 6±2 mitoses per 10 high power fields, P=0.008), and that this resulted in a relative diminution of post-metaphase figures (anaphase/telophase), which made up 7% of all mitotic figures in biopsies but only 3% in resection specimen (P<0.005). At the same time, the percentages of MIB-1 immunostained tumor cells among total tumor cells were comparable in biopsy and resection material, irrespective of the mode of MIB-1 quantification. Finally, we found no association between the size of the biopsy material and the relative increase of mitotic figures in resection specimen. We propose that the increase in mitotic figures in resection specimen and the significant shift towards metaphase figures is not due to a sampling artifact, but reflects ongoing cell cycle activity in the resected tumor tissue due to fixation delay. The dwindling energy supply will eventually arrest tumor cells in metaphase, where they are readily identified by the diagnostic pathologist. Taken together, we suggest that the rapidly fixed biopsy material better represents true tumor biology and should be privileged as predictive marker of putative response to cytotoxic chemotherapy.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Pathology > Clinical Pathology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Pathology

UniBE Contributor:

Lehr, Hans-Anton, Schäfer, Stephan


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Nature Publishing Group




Andrea Arnold

Date Deposited:

03 Apr 2014 15:28

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:31

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:



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