Detection and Quantitation of HER-2 Gene Amplification and Protein Expression in Breast Carcinoma

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We compared fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), immunohistochemical analysis, immunocytochemical analysis, and relative quantification assays using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as methods for estimating HER-2 gene amplification and protein overexpression in fine-needle aspirate (FNA) specimens and paraffin-embedded tissue samples from 49 cases of breast cancer.

FISH can be performed successfully on FNA smears. Immunohistochemical and immunocytochemical staining intensity of 3+ corresponds to a FISH ratio of more than 2.5. Immunohistochemical and immunocytochemical staining of 2+ and 1+ are not necessarily associated with gene amplification. Increased DNA PCR ratios might be seen without amplification, reflecting polysomy. HER-2 messenger RNA relative quantitation scores correlate well with HER-2 gene amplification.

Owing to the ease with which it can be performed and interpreted, we conclude that FISH is the test of choice for HER-2 estimation and, when possible, should be performed on whole nuclei, which are readily available in FNA smears or imprint cytology. FISH may be used primarily or to confirm immunohistochemical, immunocytochemical, and PCR results.

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