Racial Disparities in Pathological Complete Response Among Patients Receiving Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy for Early-Stage Breast Cancer

JAMA Network Open Manuscript
Authors Fangyuan Zhao, MA; Minoru Miyashita, MD, PhD; Masaya Hattori, MD; Toshio Yoshimatsu, MS; Frederick Howard, MD; Kristiyana Kaneva, MD, MS; Ryan Jones, MD, PhD; Joshua S. K. Bell, PhD; Gini F. Fleming, MD; Nora Jaskowiak, MD; Rita Nanda, MD; Yonglan Zheng, PhD; Dezheng Huo, MD, PhD,; Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, MBBS


Among patients with breast cancer, inconsistent findings have been published on racial disparities in achieving pathologic complete response (pCR) after neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT).


To investigate whether racial disparities exist in achieving pCR and what factors contribute to them.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Within the ongoing Chicago Multiethnic Epidemiologic Breast Cancer Cohort (ChiMEC), which consists of a prospectively ascertained cohort of patients with breast cancer, 690 patients with stage I to III breast cancer receiving NACT were identified for this single-institution study at the University of Chicago Medicine. Patients diagnosed between 2002 and 2020 (median follow-up: 5.4 years) were included; next-generation sequencing data on tumor-normal tissue pairs were available from 186 ChiMEC patients, including both primary and residual tumor samples. Statistical analysis was performed from September 2021 to September 2022.


Demographic, biological, and treatment factors that could contribute to disparities in achieving pCR.

Main Outcomes and Measures

pCR was defined as the absence of invasive cancer in the breast and axillary nodes, irrespective of ductal carcinoma in situ.


The study included 690 patients with breast cancer, with a mean (SD) age of 50.1 (12.8) years. Among the 355 White patients, 130 (36.6%) achieved pCR compared to 77 of the 269 Black patients (28.6%; P = .04). Not achieving pCR was associated with significantly worse overall survival (adjusted hazard ratio, 6.10; 95% CI, 2.80-13.32). Black patients had significantly lower odds of achieving pCR compared with White patients in the hormone receptor–negative/ERBB2+ subtype (adjusted odds ratio, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.11-0.81). Compared with White patients with ERBB2+ disease, Black patients were more likely to have MAPK pathway alterations (30.0% [6 of 20] vs 4.6% [1 of 22]; P = .04), a potential mechanism of anti-ERBB2 therapy resistance. Tumor mutational burden and somatic alterations in several genes (eg, FGF4FGF3, CCND1, MCL1, FAT1, ERCC3, PTEN) were significantly different between the primary and residual tumors.

Conclusions and Relevance

In this cohort study of patients with breast cancer, racial disparities in response to NACT were associated with disparities in survival and varied across different breast cancer subtypes. This study highlights the potential benefits of better understanding the biology of primary and residual tumors.