HER2 genetic heterogeneity in breast carcinoma

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Abstract

Aims

To determine the frequency of HER2 genetic heterogeneity according to the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and College of American Pathologists (CAP) definition (2009) in invasive breast carcinoma, and to identify clinicopathological features that characterise breast carcinomas with HER2 genetic heterogeneity.

Methods

530 invasive breast carcinomas were retrospectively analysed for HER2 genetic heterogeneity, and investigated for a potential association of HER2 genetic heterogeneity with other HER2 FISH findings, clinicopathological parameters, oestrogen/progesterone receptor expression and DNA cytometric parameters in breast carcinomas with an equivocal (2+) HER2 immunohistochemical score.

Results

The overall frequency of HER2 genetic heterogeneity was 14.7% in a cohort of 218 consecutive breast carcinomas. HER2 genetic heterogeneity was most frequent in invasive breast carcinomas with an equivocal (2+) HER2 immunohistochemical score. Among the 151 carcinomas lacking HER2 amplification, 16.1% showed HER2 genetic heterogeneity. In an extended cohort of 345 carcinomas with a (2+) HER2 score, the frequency of HER2 genetic heterogeneity was 41%, and was associated with the absence of HER2 gene clusters, chromosome 17 polysomy, histological tumour grade, DNA ploidy category and 5c exceeding rate.

Conclusion

HER2 genetic heterogeneity according to the ASCO/CAP definition is frequent in breast carcinoma, and is most often present in carcinomas with an equivocal (2+) HER2 score. Many carcinomas with HER2 genetic heterogeneity have a negative HER2 amplification status, although they contain a significant number of tumour cells with HER2 gene amplification. Single cell scoring of the HER2/17 centromeric probe (CEP17) ratio is necessary to identify carcinomas with HER2 genetic heterogeneity, because they lack specific clinicopathological characteristics.

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