Relationship between c-erbB-2 protein product expression and response to endocrine therapy in advanced breast cancer

Br J Cancer. 1992 Jan;65(1):118-21. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1992.22.


Of 221 patients with breast cancer of known epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and oestrogen receptor (ER) status, 99 had developed recurrences during the period of follow-up (range 3-60 months, median 24 months). Of these, 72 received endocrine therapy as first-line treatment for relapse. Immunohistochemical assessment of c-erbB-2 protein product expression was made using paraffin-embedded tumour tissue from 65 of these 72 patients. Including patients whose disease remained stable for more than 6 months with those showing an objective response (CR or PR for more than 3 months), only one (7%) of 14 c-erbB-2 positive tumours responded to endocrine manipulation compared with 19 (37%) of 51 c-erbB-2 negative tumours (P less than 0.05). Coexpression of c-erbB-2 reduced the response rate of ER positive patients from 48% to 20% and of ER negative cases from 27% to 0% (P less than 0.01). EGFR and c-erbB-2 protein appeared to have additive effects in reducing the likelihood of response, and none of eight patients with EGFR positive, c-erbB-2 positive tumours derived benefit from endocrine therapy. The results of this study suggest that c-erbB-2 protein overexpression, a marker of poor prognosis in breast cancer, is associated with a lack of response to endocrine therapy on relapse, and particularly in combination with EGFR may be useful in directing therapeutic choices.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aminoglutethimide / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • ErbB Receptors / analysis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / therapeutic use*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Mastectomy
  • Mastectomy, Segmental
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Prognosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / analysis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogenes*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Aminoglutethimide
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Hydrocortisone