HER2 expression in cervical cancer as a potential therapeutic target

BMC Cancer. 2004 Sep 1;4:59. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-4-59.


Background: Trastuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody against the HER2 receptor is currently being used in breast and other tumor types. Early studies have shown that a variable proportion of cervical carcinoma tumors overexpress the HER2 receptor as evaluated by diverse techniques and antibodies. Currently it is known that a tumor response to trastuzumab strongly correlates with the level of HER2 expression evaluated by the Hercep Test, thus, it seems desirable to evaluate the status of expression of this receptor using the FDA-approved Hercep Test and grading system to gain insight in the feasibility of using trastuzumab in cervical cancer patients.

Methods: We analyzed a series of cervical cancer cell lines, the primary tumors of 35 cases of cervical cancer patients and four recurrent cases, with the Hercep Test in order to establish whether this tumor type overexpress HER2 at level of 2+/3+ as trastuzumab is currently approved for breast cancer having such level of expression.

Results: The results indicate that only 1 out of 35 primary tumors cases overexpress the receptor at this level, however, two out of four recurrent tumors that tested negative at diagnosis shifted to Hercep Test 2+ and 3+ respectively.

Conclusions: The low frequency of expression in primary cases suggests that trastuzumab could have a limited value for the primary management of cervical cancer patients, however, the finding of "conversion" to Hercep Test 2+ and 3+ of recurrent tumors indicates the need to further evaluate the expression of HER2 in the metastatic and recurrent cases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / genetics
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • Trastuzumab
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab