Introduction: Spindle cell carcinoma is a rare subtype of metaplastic breast cancer, with triple-negative (TNBC: estrogen receptor-negative/progesterone receptor-negative/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative) phenotype. It is associated with a marked resistance to conventional chemotherapy and has an overall poor outcome.

Materials and methods: Twenty-three pure spindle cell carcinomas of the breast (18 primary and 5 recurrent/metastatic) were comprehensively explored for biomarkers of immuno-oncology and targeted therapies using immunohistochemistry and DNA/RNA sequencing.

Results: The majority (21/23) of spindle cell carcinomas were TNBC. Estrogen and androgen receptor expression above the therapeutic thresholds were detected in 2 cases each. Pathogenic gene mutations were identified in 21 of 23 cases, including PIK3CA, TP53, HRAS, NF1, and PTEN. One case with matched pre- and post-chemotherapy samples exhibited a consistent mutational profile (PIK3CA and HRAS mutations) in both samples. Gene amplifications were present in 5 cases, including 1 case without detectable mutations. The spindle cell carcinomas cohort had consistently low total mutational burden (all below the 80th percentile for the entire TNBC cohort). All tumors were microsatellite stable. Programmed death-ligand 1 expression was observed on both tumor cells (in 7/21 cases), and in tumor-infiltrating immune cells (2/21 cases).

Conclusions: Spindle cell carcinomas are characterized by targetable molecular alterations in the majority of cases, but owing to the lack of uniform findings, individual patient profiling is necessary. Detection of individual combinations of biomarkers should improve treatment options for this rare but aggressive disease.

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© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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