Diagnostic value of serum HER2 levels in breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis

BMC Cancer. 2020 Oct 31;20(1):1049. doi: 10.1186/s12885-020-07545-2.


Background: Measurement of serum human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER-2/neu) levels might play an essential role as a diagnostic/screening marker for the early selection of therapeutic approaches and predict prognosis in breast cancer patients. We aimed to undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis focusing on the diagnostic/screening value of serum HER-2 levels in comparison to routine methods.

Methods: We performed a systematic search via PubMed, Scopus, Cochrane-Library, and Web of Science databases for human diagnostic studies reporting the levels of serum HER-2 in breast cancer patients, which was confirmed using the histopathological examination. Meta-analyses were carried out for sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, area under the ROC curve (AUC), positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV), positive likelihood ratio (PLR), and negative likelihood ratio (NLR).

Results: Fourteen studies entered into this investigation. The meta-analysis indicated the low sensitivity for serum HER2 levels (Sensitivity: 53.05, 95%CI 40.82-65.28), but reasonable specificity of 79.27 (95%CI 73.02-85.51), accuracy of 72.06 (95%CI 67.04-77.08) and AUC of 0.79 (95%CI 0.66-0.92). We also found a significant differences for PPV (PPV: 56.18, 95%CI 44.16-68.20), NPV (NPV: 76.93, 95%CI 69.56-84.31), PLR (PLR: 2.10, 95%CI 1.69-2.50) and NLR (NLR: 0.58, 95%CI 0.44-0.71).

Conclusion: Our findings revealed that although serum HER-2 levels showed low se nsitivity for breast cancer diagnosis, its specificity, accuracy and AUC were reasonable. Hence, it seems that the measurement of serum HER-2 levels can play a significant role as a verification test for initial negative screening test results, especially in low-income regions due to its cost-effectiveness and ease of implementation.

Keywords: Breast neoplasm; Immunoassay; Serum HER-2; erbB2.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / blood*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2