Background: Trastuzumab treatment improves survival of HER2-positive primary breast cancer. HER2 staining intensity varies widely in HER2-positive tumours.
Patients and methods: We investigated whether differences in immunohistochemical (IHC) staining intensity for HER2 in HER2-positive tumors (IHC 3+ or FISH ratio ≥2.0) was associated with prognosis or benefit from trastuzumab treatment in patients randomized to 1 year or no trastuzumab in the HERceptin Adjuvant (HERA) trial. Median follow-up was 2 years. The nested case-control analysis, included 425 patients (cases) with a disease-free survival (DFS) event and two matched controls (no DFS event) per case. Tissue sections stained for HER2 were assessed for HER2 staining intensity by image analysis.
Results: HER2 staining intensity varied widely and correlated with HER2 gene copy number (Spearman, r = 0.498, P < 0.001) or less closely with HER2/CEP17 FISH ratio (r = 0.396, P < 0.001). We found no significant difference in DFS in the observation arm according to staining intensity (odds ratio [OR] change per 10 unit change in intensity: 1.015, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.930-1.108) and no impact of staining intensity on benefit derived from 1-year trastuzumab (OR: 1.017, 95% CI 0.925-1.120).
Conclusions: Variability in HER2 staining in HER2-positive tumours has no role in clinical management with adjuvant trastuzumab.
Hera trial no: NCT00045032.
Keywords: HER2; HERA; IHC intensity; Trastuzumab; breast cancer.