c-erb-2 amplification and overexpression are currently attracting a great deal of attention because a new adjuvant therapy using an antibody against the c-erbB-2 gene product, trastuzumab (Herceptin; Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, CA), has proved effective in treating breast cancer with amplification and/or overexpression of c-erbB-2. Aberrations of c-erbB-2 have also been detected in ovarian, endometrial and gastric carcinomas at varied frequencies. Amplification of the c-erbB-2 locus (17q12-q21.32), overexpression of c-erbB-2 protein (p185) and serum levels of soluble c-erbB-2 protein fragments (p105) were examined in gastric cancer patients using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), immunohistochemistry and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), respectively. Overexpression of c-erbB-2 protein was found in 29 (8.2%) of the 352 gastric carcinomas analyzed. In FISH analysis, all tumors with 3+ immunostaining and 1 of 5 tumors with 2+ staining showed high-level amplification of c-erbB-2. Pre-operative serum p105 was quantified in serum specimens from 129 patients with gastric cancer and 28 patients with benign diseases. There were no significant differences in the serum p105 levels among 11 patients with c-erbB-2-overexpressing carcinomas, 118 patients with c-erbB-2 non-overexpressing carcinomas and 28 controls, although a single case of gastric carcinoma overexpressing c-erbB-2 with extensive liver metastasis had a higher level than the cut-off value. The mechanisms of overexpression of p185 and high-level amplification of c-erbB-2 in gastric adenocarcinomas seem similar to those well-established in breast cancers. Patients having gastric adenocarcinoma with c-erbB-2 amplification are potential candidates for a new adjuvant therapy using humanized monoclonal antibody.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.