Stability of the HER2 gene after primary chemotherapy in advanced breast cancer

Varga, Zsuzsanna ; Caduff, Rosmarie ; Pestalozzi, Bernhard

In: Virchows Archiv, 2005, vol. 446, no. 2, p. 136-141

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    We investigated whether alterations of the Her2 gene could be detected in breast cancer samples following primary chemotherapy in advanced breast cancer. The prospective study involved 23 patients with stage-II, -III or -IV breast cancer. All patients were treated with two to six cycles of fluorouracil-epirubicin and/or cyclophosphamid/epi-docetaxel. The Her2 protein and gene were assessed both on core needle biopsies prior to and on surgical specimens after completing chemotherapy using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) methods. Estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER/PR) were also determined on both samples using IHC. Her2 status was modified in eight patients using IHC (35%) and in three patients using FISH (13%). Changes in ER/PR expression were detected in seven patients (30%). Our data suggest that alterations of the Her2 gene can occur, although not usually after primary or neoadjuvant chemotherapy. However, changes in ER/PR status seem to be a more common event; thus, both can lead to different therapeutic options. Intratumoral heterogeneity as well as sampling variations can contribute to modification of the Her2 status after primary chemotherapy