A differential PCR assay for the detection of c-erbB 2 amplification used in a prospective study of breast cancer

Mol Pathol. 1997 Oct;50(5):254-6. doi: 10.1136/mp.50.5.254.


Aims: To establish a robust differential polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for the detection of c-erbB 2 amplification in breast cancer that can be used in a routine pathology laboratory. Once established, the assay was used in a prospective study of breast tumours to investigate the relation between c-erbB 2 amplification and both recognised prognostic features and short term clinical outcome.

Methods: The differential PCR was used for the co-amplification of c-erbB 2 and a reference gene from 48 tumour DNA samples and control DNA samples. The ratio of the two genes was determined by image analysis of the PCR products electrophoresed on a highly resolving agarose gel.

Results: The differential PCR assay was shown to be accurate and reproducible using the conditions outlined. Twenty six per cent of the breast cancer patients were shown to have c-erbB 2 amplification in their tumour biopsies. Twenty eight per cent of the patients died of their disease or had disease recurrence during the follow up period and 73% of these patients had amplification of c-erbB 2.

Conclusions: A significant association was found between c-erbB 2 amplification and early disease recurrence. This assay could be used to provide a marker for poor prognosis in breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Genes, erbB-2*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies