Overexpression of the HER-2/ neu Oncogene in Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma

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Novel systemic treatments are needed in pancreatic cancer. The authors sought to establish the frequency of overexpression of the HER-2/ neu oncogene in patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma to determine the potential role of trastuzumab (Herceptin) as a therapeutic agent in this disease. Tumor specimens from patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma were analyzed by staining for p185HER2 protein using the DAKO immunohistochemical assay. Patients with and without HER-2/ neu overexpression by immunohistochemistry were compared with respect to clinical and pathologic characteristics. HER-2/neu gene amplification was also evaluated by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Thirty-two of 154 patients (21%) had pancreatic adenocarcinoma that demonstrated HER-2/ neu overexpression by immunohistochemistry. At initial diagnosis, 16% of resectable cancers, 17% of locally advanced cancers, and 26% of metastatic cancers were determined to have HER-2/ neu overexpression. Three of 11 (27%) patients with HER-2/ neu overexpression by immunohistochemistry had gene amplification by FISH. HER-2/ neu overexpression occurs in a subset of pancreatic cancer. Evaluation of the efficacy of trastuzumab for patients with pancreatic cancer who overexpress HER-2/ neu appears indicated.

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