Chromogenic in situ hybridization: a novel approach to a practical and sensitive method for the detection of HER2 oncogene in archival human breast carcinoma

Lab Invest. 2002 Aug;82(8):1007-14. doi: 10.1097/01.lab.0000024360.48464.a4.


The high incidence of HER2 overexpression on the cell surface of breast cancer cells and the recognized prognostic and potentially predictive value of HER2 render this cell surface receptor a novel and important therapeutic target. Although immunohistochemistry (IHC; HercepTest) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH; PathVysion and INFORM)-both approved by the Food and Drug Administration-have emerged as the most viable assays for evaluation of HER2 status in routine clinical practice, there is still no consensus on which is the best method for assessing HER2 status. Therefore, our specific objective was to establish a chromogenic in situ hybridization (CISH) assay for the detection of HER2 amplification on a cohort of 173 archival invasive breast carcinomas. Results were compared with HercepTest, which is the most frequently used method for detecting HER2 alteration. Additionally, HER2 gene copy number was investigated using differential PCR (dPCR) as a testing system. HER2 overexpression was found by IHC in 24.3%; HER2 amplification was found by CISH in 19.1% and by dPCR in 9.2% of the tumors. The overall concordance rate was 95.9% between CISH and IHC and 85.0% between dPCR and IHC. Kappa statistics revealed an excellent agreement between IHC and CISH (kappa = 0.878), but only a moderate agreement was found between IHC and dPCR (kappa = 0.482). Discrepant cases between CISH and HercepTest and all IHC-positive cases (+2 and +3), a total of 42 cases, were analyzed with the FISH PathVysion (Vysis) assay. Among 25 HercepTest-positive cases (score +3), 2 showed no gene amplification by FISH or CISH. Four of 13 tumors with weak HER2 overexpression (score +2) were negative with both FISH and CISH. Concordance between CISH and FISH was 100% for the 38 cases analyzed. The current study showed that CISH represents a practical and simple assay for evaluating HER2 gene amplification in archival material, offering a promising alternative to IHC or FISH for the routine diagnostic setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Chromogenic Compounds
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization / methods*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / analysis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tissue Embedding


  • Chromogenic Compounds
  • Receptor, ErbB-2