Background: HER-2/neu (ERBB2) gene amplification and/or overexpression is a major event in human breast tumorigenesis. HER-2/neu gene alterations have been the most frequently assessed prognostic factors during the last 10 years in breast cancer and have recently emerged as a management decision tool and a therapeutic target. There is still controversy over the best method to determine whether a tumor is HER-2/neu positive. Because of the increasing demand for HER-2/neu gene status determination in clinical practice, we compared HER-2/neu gene alterations at the DNA level (gene amplification) and the protein level (overexpression) in a panel of patients with lymph node-negative breast cancer who had received local radiotherapy alone, with no adjuvant therapy.
Methods: We tested 100 excised lymph node-negative breast tumors, using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with a biotinylated HER-2/neu DNA probe and immunohistochemical assays (IHC) with 2 different antibodies.
Results: The FISH frequency of HER-2/neu gene amplification was 15%, and the IHC frequency of overexpression was 21%.
Conclusion: Although HER-2/neu amplification by FISH and HER-2/neu overexpression by IHC correlated well in this panel of lymph node-negative breast carcinomas, there were a number of discordant cases, pointing to the important need for determining HER-2/neu alteration for the future management of HER-2/neu-based clinical applications.