Molecular and clinical correlates of HER3 expression highlights its potential role as a therapeutic target in melanoma

Pathology. 2023 Aug;55(5):629-636. doi: 10.1016/j.pathol.2023.03.007. Epub 2023 May 16.


Overexpression of the epidermal growth factor receptor family member HER3 (erbB3) has been implicated in several types of cancer and recently drugs targeting HER3 have shown promising clinical activity. In melanoma, HER3 overexpression has been linked to both metastasis formation and resistance to drug therapy in cell culture models. Here, we sought to characterise the expression of HER3 in 187 melanoma biopsies (149 cutaneous, 38 mucosal) using immunohistochemistry, as well as to analyse the association between HER3 expression and molecular, clinical and pathological variables. A subset of the cutaneous melanoma specimens was taken prior to treatment with immune checkpoint blockade therapy (pre-ICB) (n=79). HER3 expression (≥1+) was observed in 136 of 187 samples (∼73%). HER3 expression was found to be markedly lower in the mucosal melanomas, with 17 of the 38 tumours (∼45%) demonstrating no HER3 expression. In cutaneous melanomas, there was a negative association between HER3 expression and mutational load, a positive association with NRAS mutational status, and a trend of negative association with PD-L1 expression. In the pre-ICB cohort, an association was found between high HER3 expression (≥2+) and overall survival after anti-PD-1-based immunotherapy. Overall, our results indicate that HER3 is a promising therapeutic avenue in cutaneous melanoma worthy of further clinical evaluation.

Keywords: HER3; diagnosis; immunohistochemistry; melanoma; metastasis; pathology; skin; therapy; treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Melanoma, Cutaneous Malignant
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / pathology