Expression of HER-2/neu oncoprotein in human breast cancer: a comparison of immunohistochemical and western blot techniques

Anticancer Res. Nov-Dec 1992;12(6B):1965-71.


Three hundred and one primary breast cancers from patients with tumor infiltrated lymph nodes were analyzed for the presence of HER-2/neu oncoprotein by two procedures: Western blot (WB) and immunohistochemistry (IHC). Overexpression of this protein was found by WB in 16.6% of the tumors, and by IHC in 16.3%. Concordance between the two methods was found in 95% of tumors (286/301). In 7 cases we found HER-2/neu by IHC but not by WB, while the opposite was found in the remaining 8 patients. This discrepancy was found mainly in samples with HER-2/neu values just above the cut points and were therefore close to the sensitivity limits of the procedures used here. This study helps to define the parameters that should be considered to evaluate the immunostaining for HER-2/neu as positive (i.e., membrane staining, IHC score of 2 or more). The results obtained by both techniques were correlated with several currently used prognostic factors. Higher HER-2/neu protein expression was found in tumors lacking estrogen or progesterone receptors, in tumors with high S-phase fraction and in patients with more than 3 positive lymph nodes. In contrast, no relationship was found between overexpression of this protein and tumor size, ploidy, or age of the patient. Patients with elevated HER-2/neu expression showed a significantly worse overall survival by both methods, IHC (p = 0.05) and WB (p = 0.001). In conclusion, there is very high agreement between IHC and WB when measuring expression of HER-2/neu and both techniques showed prognostic significance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Biopsy
  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / analysis*
  • Ploidies
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Receptors, Progesterone / analysis
  • S Phase
  • Survival Analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Receptor, ErbB-2