Genetic heterogeneity in HER2 testing in breast cancer: panel summary and guidelines

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2009 Apr;133(4):611-2. doi: 10.5858/133.4.611.


Context: Intratumoral heterogeneity of HER2 gene amplification has been well documented and represents subclonal diversity within the tumor. The reported incidence of intratumor HER2 amplification genetic heterogeneity ranges in the literature from approximately 5% to 30%. The presence of HER2 genetic heterogeneity may increase subjectivity in HER2 interpretation by the pathologist.

Objectives: To define HER2 genetic heterogeneity and to provide practice guidelines for examining and reporting breast tumors with genetic heterogeneity for improvement of HER2 testing in breast cancer.

Design: We convened an expert panel to discuss HER2 gene amplification testing by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Components addressed included a definition of HER2 amplification heterogeneity, practice guidelines for examination of the tissue, and reporting criteria for this analysis.

Results: Genetic heterogeneity for amplification of HER2 gene status in invasive breast cancer is defined and guidelines established for assessing and reporting HER2 results in these cases. These guidelines are additive to and expand those published in 2007 by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the College of American Pathologists.

Conclusion: Standardized methods for analysis will improve the accuracy and consistency of interpretation of HER2 gene amplification status in breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Amplification
  • Genes, erbB-2*
  • Genetic Heterogeneity*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques*