HER2 status of bone marrow micrometastasis and their corresponding primary tumours in a pilot study of 27 cases: a possible tool for anti-HER2 therapy management?

Br J Cancer. 2007 Feb 26;96(4):654-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6603584. Epub 2007 Jan 30.


Discrepancies have been reported between HER2 status in primary breast cancer and micrometastatic cells in bone marrow. The aim of this study was to assess HER2 gene status in micrometastatic cells in bone marrow and corresponding primary tumour. Micrometastatic cells were detected in bone marrow aspirations in a prospective series of 27 breast cancer patients by immunocytochemistry (pancytokeratin antibody). HER2 status of micrometastatic cells was assessed by fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH), respectively in 24 out of 27. Primary tumour HER2 status was assessed by immunohistochemistry (CB11 antibody) and by FISH in 20 out of 27 of the cases. HER2 was amplified or overexpressed in five out of 27 (18.5%) primary tumours and in four out of 27 (15%) micrometastatic cells. In two cases, HER2 was overexpressed and amplified in primary tumour, but not in micrometastatic cells, whereas, in one case, HER2 presented a low amplification rate (six copies) in micrometastatic cells not found in the primary tumour. We demonstrated that negative and positive HER2 status remained, in the majority of the cases, stable between the bone marrow micrometastasis and the primary tumour. Therefore, the efficiency of anti-HER2 adjuvant therapy could be evaluated, in a clinical trial, by sequential detection of HER2-positive micrometastatic cells within the bone marrow, before and after treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms / genetics
  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms / secondary
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Amplification
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / biosynthesis*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics


  • Receptor, ErbB-2