J Breast Cancer.  2022 Apr;25(2):94-105. 10.4048/jbc.2022.25.e17.

Relationship Between Breast and Axillary Pathologic Complete Response According to Clinical Nodal Stage: A Nationwide Study From Korean Breast Cancer Society

  • 1Division of Breast Surgery, Department of Surgery, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Surgery, Samsung Changwon Hospital, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Changwon, Korea
  • 3Department of Surgery, Dong-A University Hospital, Dong-A University College of Medicine, Busan, Korea
  • 4Department of Surgery, Ajou University Hospital, Suwon, Korea
  • 5Department of Surgery, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea
  • 6Division of Breast Surgery, Department of Surgery, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 7Division of Breast Surgery, Kyungpook National University Chilgok Hospital, Daegu, Korea
  • 8Department of Breast Cancer Surgery, Gachon University Gil Medical Center, Incheon, Korea


We evaluated the relationship between breast pathologic complete response (BpCR) and axillary pathologic complete response (ApCR) after neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT) according to nodal burden at presentation. As the indications for NACT have expanded, clinicians have started clinical trials for the omission of surgery from the treatment plan in patients with excellent responses to NACT. However, the appropriate indications for axillary surgery omission after excellent NACT response remain unclear.
Data were collected from patients in the Korean Breast Cancer Society Registry who underwent NACT followed by surgery between 2010 and 2020. We analyzed pathologic axillary nodal positivity after NACT according to BpCR stratified by tumor subtype in patients with cT1-3/N0-2 disease at diagnosis.
A total of 6,597 patients were identified. Regarding cT stage, 528 (9.5%), 3,778 (67.8%), and 1,268 (22.7%) patients had cT1, cT2, and cT3 disease, respectively. Regarding cN stage, 1,539 (27.7%), 2,976 (53.6%), and 1,036 (18.7%) patients had cN0, cN1, and cN2 disease, respectively. BpCR occurred in 21.6% (n = 1,427) of patients, while ApCR and pathologic complete response (ypCR) occurred in 59.7% (n = 3,929) and ypCR 19.4% (n = 1,285) of patients, respectively. The distribution of biologic subtypes included 2,329 (39.3%) patients with hormone receptor (HR)-positive/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative disease, 1,122 (18.9%) with HR-positive/HER2-positive disease, 405 (6.8%) with HR-negative/HER2-positive disease, and 2,072 (35.0%) with triple-negative breast cancer . Among the patients with BpCR, 89.6% (1,122/1,252) had ApCR. Of those with cN0 disease, most (99.0%, 301/304) showed ApCR. Among patients with cN1-2 disease, 86.6% (821/948) had ApCR.
BpCR was highly correlated with ApCR after NACT. In patients with cN0 and BpCR, the risk of missing axillary nodal metastasis was low after NACT. Further research on axillary surgery omission in patients with cN0 disease is needed.


Breast Neoplasms; Complete Response; Neoadjuvant Therapy
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