Determination of HER2 gene amplification by chromogenic in situ hybridization (CISH) in archival breast carcinoma

Mod Pathol. 2002 Jun;15(6):657-65. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.3880582.


Purpose: To compare the efficacy of chromogenic in situ hybridization (CISH(TM)) with fluorescence in situ (FISH) hybridization and immunohistochemistry (IHC) in determination of the HER2 status in human breast cancer.

Materials and methods: HER2 gene amplification was determined on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) sections of 62 invasive breast cancers by FISH and followed by CISH using a digoxigenin (DIG)-labeled HER2 DNA probe generated by Subtraction Probe Technology (SPT(TM)), and a biotin-labeled chromosome 17 centromeric (chr.17cen) probe. The sections were heat treated and enzyme digested. After in situ hybridization, the HER2 probe was detected with fluorescein (FITC)-anti-DIG for FISH, followed by peroxidase-anti-FITC and diaminobenzidine (DAB) for CISH. The chr.17cen probe was detected with peroxidase-streptavidin and DAB. For CISH application, HER2 gene copies or chromosome 17 centromeres and morphology of cells were easily visualized simultaneously with a 40x objective under bright-field microscope in hematoxylin-counterstained sections. IHC study of HER2 overexpression was performed on adjacent sections using a panel of three HER2 antibodies (TAB 250, CB11, A0485), and staining was scored according to the criteria specified in the HercepTest.

Results: HER2 gene amplification detected by CISH was visualized typically as large DAB-stained clusters or by many dots in the nucleus. FISH and CISH identified HER2 gene amplification in 19% of the tumors. Chromosome 17 polysomy was detected in 31% of the tumors. HER2 overexpression was demonstrated in 19% (TAB 250), 23% (CB11), and 36% (A0485) of the tumors. Complete concordance between the results of CISH with FISH, TAB 250, CB11, and A0485 was seen in 100%, 97%, 94%, and 84% of the cases, respectively.

Conclusion: By permitting observation of morphology using a bright-field microscope, CISH is an accurate, practical, and economical approach to screen HER2 status in breast cancers. It is a useful methodology for confirming ambiguous IHC results.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization / methods*
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / analysis
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics*


  • Receptor, ErbB-2