HER2 protein and gene variation between primary and metastatic breast cancer: Significance and impact on patient care

Alessandra Fabi, Anna Di Benedetto, Giulio Metro, Letizia Perracchio, Cecilia Nisticò, Franco Di Filippo, Cristiana Ercolani, Gianluigi Ferretti, Elisa Melucci, Simonetta Buglioni, Isabella Sperduti, Paola Papaldo, Francesco Cognetti, Marcella Mottolese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To analyze HER2 status in primary breast cancer (PBC) compared with correspondent metachronous metastases and to investigate whether BC phenotype may be predictive of change in HER2 expression. Experimental Design: HER2 was investigated by immunohistochemistry, silver in situ hybridization (SISH), and FISH, in a series of 137 tumors, building up a tissue microarray to concurrently analyze each single PBC and metastatic (MBC) on the same slide. Results: HER2 status was discordant in 14 cases (10%): 12 negative in PBC and positive in metastases and two positive in PBC and negative in metastases (P = 0.04). These findings were confirmed by a PCR based test termed Multiplex Ligation-dependent Probe Amplification (MLPA). HER2 status changed in hormone receptor-positive BC more frequently than in negative ones (P = 0.002). In addition, we evaluated HER2 gene and chromosome 17 copy number by SISH in the 123 cases with unchanged HER2 status during progression. We found consistent HER2 gene copy number stability in the 100 nonamplified cases. Conversely, of the 23 amplified PBC, 13 (57%) demonstrated a significant increase in the HER2 gene and chromosome 17 copy number in their paired metastases (P = 0.01), as defined by SISH (k = 0.54, P <0.0001) and MLPA. Patients who changed HER2 status from negative to positive, presented significant longer time to progression when treated with trastuzumab compared to those who were untreated (P = 0.04). Conclusions: When feasible, HER2 reassessment in metastatic lesions should be carefully taken into account, especially for metastases coming from primary hormone receptor-positive BC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2055-2064
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


Dive into the research topics of 'HER2 protein and gene variation between primary and metastatic breast cancer: Significance and impact on patient care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this