Herceptest: Her2 expression and gene amplification in non-small cell lung cancer
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HER2 is an erbB/HER type 1 tyrosine kinase receptor that is frequently over-expressed in malignant epithelial tumours. Herceptin, a humanised mouse monoclonal antibody to HER2, is proven therapeutically in the management of metastatic breast cancer, significantly prolonging survival when combined with cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents. Immunohistochemical studies suggest that non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumours may over-express HER2. Our aim was to evaluate HER2 gene amplification and semi-quantitative immuno-expression in NSCLC. A total of 344 NSCLC cases were immunostained for HER2 expression in 2 centres using the HercepTest. Fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) analysis for HER2 gene amplification was performed on most positive cases and a subset of negative cases. Fifteen cases (4.3%) demonstrated 2+ or 3+ membranous HER2 immuno-expression. There was no correlation between immuno-expression and tumour histology or grade. Tumours from higher-stage disease were more often HercepTest-positive (p < 0.001). All 4 HercepTest 3+ cases demonstrated gene amplification. One of the 5 2+ cases tested for gene amplification showed areas of borderline amplification and areas of polyploidy. None of the 19 HercepTest-negative cases demonstrated gene amplification or polyploidy (p < 0.001). Gene amplification was demonstrated in all HercepTest 3+ scoring NSCLC cases. Unlike breast cancer, gene amplification and HER2 protein over-expression assessed by the HercepTest appeared to be uncommon in NSCLC. Herceptin may therefore target only a small proportion of NSCLC tumours and be of limited clinical value in this disease, particularly in the adjuvant setting.
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