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Comparison of HER2 amplification status among breast cancer subgroups offers new insights in pathways of breast cancer progression

  • Lambein, Kathleen1, 2
  • Van Bockstal, Mieke3, 4
  • Vandemaele, Lies3
  • Van den Broecke, Rudy5
  • Cocquyt, Veronique6
  • Geenen, Sofie3
  • Denys, Hannelore6
  • Libbrecht, Louis3, 7
  • 1 AZ St Lucas Hospital, Department of Pathology, Groenebriel 1, Ghent, 9000, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 2 University Hospitals Leuven, Department of Oncology, KU Leuven, Surgical Oncology, Herestraat 49, Leuven, 3000, Belgium , Leuven (Belgium)
  • 3 Ghent University, Department of Medical and Forensic Pathology, De Pintelaan 185, Ghent, 9000, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 4 Cancer Research Institute Ghent (CRIG), Ghent, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 5 Ghent University Hospital, Department of Gynaecology, De Pintelaan 185, Ghent, 9000, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 6 Ghent University Hospital, Department of Medical Oncology, De Pintelaan 185, Ghent, 9000, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 7 University Clinics St Luc, Department of Pathology, Hippokrateslaan 10, Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe, 1200, Belgium , Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe (Belgium)
Published Article
Virchows Archiv
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Publication Date
May 31, 2017
DOI: 10.1007/s00428-017-2161-8
Springer Nature


Although the prognostic and predictive significance of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) in invasive breast cancer is well established, its role in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) remains unclear. Reports on combined evaluation of both HER2 protein expression and HER2 amplification status in pure DCIS and DCIS adjacent to invasive ductal carcinoma (i.e., admixed DCIS) are scarce. In this study, immunohistochemistry and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) were used to assess HER2 status in 72 cases of pure DCIS, 73 cases of DCIS admixed with invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), and 60 cases of pure IDC. HER2 copy number-based amplification was present in 49% of pure DCIS, 16% of admixed DCIS, 18% of admixed IDC, and 8% of pure IDC. Amplified pure DCIS with clusters of HER2 signals showed a significantly lower HER2 copy number than amplified admixed DCIS with clusters. Whereas pure DCIS and admixed DCIS presented significant differences, the in situ and invasive component of admixed tumors showed striking similarities regarding mean HER2 and chromosome 17 centromere (CEP17) copy number, grade, and estrogen and progesterone receptor expression. The discrepant prevalence of HER2 amplification among breast cancer subgroups indirectly suggests that HER2 may not play a crucial role in the transition of in situ to invasive breast cancer. The similarities in HER2 amplification status between the in situ and invasive component of admixed tumors hint at a common biological pathway for both components. Our data support the theory that pure DCIS, pure IDC, and admixed lesions have a common progenitor, but can progress as separate lineages.

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