Background: Overexpression of the c-erbB-2 protein has been reported in tumors from approximately 25% of patients with epithelial ovarian cancer. However, its clinical significance has not been well established.
Methods: Overexpression of the c-erbB-2 protein was studied by immunohistochemistry in paraffin-embedded tumor tissue from 106 patients with ovarian cancer.
Results: Tumors from 23 patients (21.7%) had c-erbB-2 overexpression. The percentage of tumors with overexpression was higher in those with Stages III/IV disease (29.2%) compared with those with Stages I/II disease (5.9%) (P = 0.057), in patients with residual tumor greater than 2 cm after initial surgery (37.2%) compared with those with tumor less than 2 cm (9.5%) (P = 0.01), and in patients who failed to respond to chemotherapy with carboplatin and cyclophosphamide (75%) compared with those who responded (18.6%) (P = 0.0043). No correlation was found between c-erbB-2 expression with age, the degree of differentiation, or the histologic subtype. Median survival of the 23 patients with protein overexpression was 62 weeks, whereas 75% of the 83 patients without overexpression were alive at 123 weeks (P = 0.0000). Of the patients with advanced stage disease (III/IV), survival was also lower in those presenting with overexpression (60 weeks) compared with those without expression (75% alive at 93 weeks) (P = 0.0000). Multivariate analysis of possible prognostic factors showed that c-erbB-2 overexpression and residual tumor greater than 2 cm resulted in a worsening of survival rates.
Conclusion: c-erbB-2 overexpression in tumors from patients with ovarian cancer resulted in a poorer prognosis than for patients whose tumors did not have overexpression.