Background:Metaplastic breast carcinoma (MBC) is a rare type of breast cancer that has basal-like characteristics and is perceived to have poorer prognosis when compared with conventional no specific type/ductal carcinomas (ductal/NST). However, current data on MBC are largely derived from small case series or population-based reports. This study aimed to assess the clinicopathological features and outcome of MBC identified through an international multicentre collaboration.Methods:A large international multicentre series of MBC (no=405) with histological confirmation and follow-up information has been included in this study. The prognostic value of different variables and outcome has been assessed and compared with grade, nodal status and ER/HER2 receptor-matched ductal/NST breast carcinoma.Results:The outcome of MBC diagnosed in Asian countries was more favourable than those in Western countries. The outcome of MBC is not different from matched ductal/NST carcinoma but the performance of the established prognostic variables in MBC is different. Lymph node stage, lymphovascular invasion and histologic subtype are associated with outcome but tumour size and grade are not. Chemotherapy was associated with longer survival, although this effect was limited to early-stage disease. In this study no association between radiotherapy and outcome was identified. Multivariate analysis of MBC shows that histologic subtype is an independent prognostic feature.Conclusions:This study suggests that MBC is a heterogeneous disease. Although the outcome of MBC is not different to matched conventional ductal/NST breast carcinoma, its behaviour is dependent on the particular subtype with spindle cell carcinoma in particular has an aggressive biological behaviour. Management of patients with MBC should be based on validated prognostic variables.British Journal of Cancer advance online publication, 25 November 2014; doi:10.1038/bjc.2014.592 www.bjcancer.com.