EGFR and HER-2/neu expression in invasive apocrine carcinoma of the breast

Mod Pathol. 2010 May;23(5):644-53. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2010.50. Epub 2010 Mar 5.


This study was undertaken to investigate epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2)/neu expression in a cohort of apocrine carcinomas of the breast with emphasis on the classification of the breast tumors with apocrine morphology. In total, 55 breast carcinomas morphologically diagnosed as apocrine were evaluated for the steroid receptor expression profile characteristic of normal apocrine epithelium (androgen receptor positive/estrogen receptor (ER) negative/progesterone receptor (PR) negative), and for the expression of EGFR and Her-2/neu proteins, and the copy number ratios of the genes EGFR/CEP7 and HER-2/CEP17. On the basis of the results of steroid receptors expression, 38 (69%) cases were classified as pure apocrine carcinoma (androgen receptor positive/ER negative/PR negative), whereas 17 (31%) were re-classified as apocrine-like carcinomas because they did not have the characteristic steroid receptor expression profile. Her-2/neu overexpression was observed in 54% of the cases (57% pure apocrine carcinomas vs 47% apocrine-like carcinomas). HER-2/neu gene amplification was demonstrated in 52% of all cases (54% pure apocrine carcinomas vs 46% apocrine-like carcinomas). EGFR protein (scores 1 to 3+) was detected in 62% of all cases and was expressed in a higher proportion of pure apocrine carcinomas than in the apocrine-like carcinomas group (76 vs 29%, P=0.006). In the pure apocrine carcinoma group, Her-2/neu and EGFR protein expression were inversely correlated (P=0.006, r=-0.499). EGFR gene amplification was observed in two pure apocrine carcinomas and one apocrine-like carcinoma. Polysomy 7 was commonly present in pure apocrine carcinomas (61 vs 27% of apocrine-like carcinomas; P=0.083) and showed a weak positive correlation with EGFR protein expression (P=0.025, r=0.326). Our study showed that apocrine breast carcinomas are molecularly diverse group of carcinomas. Strictly defined pure apocrine carcinomas are either HER-2-overexpressing breast carcinomas or triple-negative breast carcinomas, whereas apocrine-like carcinomas predominantly belong to the luminal phenotype. Pure apocrine carcinomas show consistent overexpression of either EGFR or HER-2/neu, which could have significant therapeutic implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / genetics
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Steroid / genetics
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2