Molecular classification of breast cancer: what the pathologist needs to know.

Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease featuring distinct histological, molecular and clinical phenotypes. Although traditional classification systems utilising clinicopathological and few molecular markers are well established and validated, they remain insufficient to reflect the diverse biological and clinical heterogeneity of breast cancer. Advancements in high-throughput molecular techniques and bioinformatics have contributed to the improved understanding of breast cancer biology, refinement of molecular taxonomies and the development of novel prognostic and predictive molecular assays. Application of such technologies is already underway, and is expected to change the way we manage breast cancer. Despite the enormous amount of work that has been carried out to develop and refine breast cancer molecular prognostic and predictive assays, molecular testing is still in evolution. Pathologists should be aware of the new technology and be ready for the challenge. In this review, we provide an update on the application of molecular techniques with regard to breast cancer diagnosis, prognosis and outcome prediction. The current contribution of emerging technology to our understanding of breast cancer is also highlighted.

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