Phyllodes tumors are rare fibroepithelial neoplasms of the breast, which carry the potential risk of local recurrence and metastasis. Phyllodes tumors share several histological features with fibroadenomas, and no widely accepted markers for distinguishing these lesions have been identified.
We analyzed molecular abnormalities related to telomere elongation in tumors, including TERT promoter mutations, as well as loss of expression of ATRX and DAXX, in a total of 104 phyllodes tumors and fibroadenomas.
Sequencing analyses showed that TERT promoter mutations were frequent in phyllodes tumors (30/46, 65%), but rare in fibroadenomas (4/58, 7%). Among phyllodes tumors, the mutations were more frequent in borderline tumors (13/15, 87%), but were also common in benign (9/18, 50%) and malignant tumors (8/13, 62%). Remarkably, all but one TERT promoter-mutated tumor also contained MED12 mutations, indicating that these mutations are strongly associated (P=8.4 × 10(-6)). Expression of ATRX and DAXX, as evaluated by immunohistochemistry, was retained in all tumors.
Our observations suggest a critical role of TERT promoter mutations, in cooperation with MED12 mutations, in the development of phyllodes tumors. Because TERT promoter mutations are rare among fibroadenomas, their detection may be of potential use in discriminating between phyllodes tumors and fibroadenomas.