Background: The majority of cases of breast cancer scoring HER2 weak positive (2+) on immunohistochemistry (IHC) using the HercepTest are not associated with amplification of the HER2/neu gene.
Aim: To examine the reproducibility of IHC in cases scoring 2+ subsequently shown to have gene amplification by fluorescence in-situ hybridisation (FISH).
Methods: A retrospective analysis of 153 cases referred for FISH confirmation of a weak positive HercepTest (2+) result was performed. Repeat IHC was undertaken in cases with weak positive (2+) referral IHC and amplification of the HER2 gene by FISH.
Results: Amplification of the HER2 gene was confirmed in 29/153 cases (19%) scoring 2+ on IHC. Repeat IHC was carried out on 25 IHC 2+ cases: 7 (28%) scored 2+ on repeat IHC, 18 (72%) scored 3+ and were reclassified as strong positive. A heterogeneous expression pattern was present in 3/17 cases scoring 3+.
Conclusions: The majority of HercepTest 2+ results are not accompanied by gene amplification and represent “false positive” IHC in terms of prognostic or therapeutic relevance. A small proportion of HercepTest 2+ scores represent true 2+ IHC positive cases accompanied by gene amplification: a category probably biologically related to 3+ IHC cases. The remainder of cases of HercepTest™ 2+ accompanied by gene amplification represent a category of referral IHC 2+ weak positive, FISH amplified, repeat IHC 3+ strong positive, best described as “false negative 2+ IHC”. This has implications for selection of cases for FISH analysis where weak positive (2+) IHC score is used as a triage for FISH testing, and for testing strategies in referral laboratories undertaking FISH analysis.
- AMNCH, The Adelaide and Meath Hospital
- FISH, fluorescence in-situ hybridisation
- IHC, immunohistochemistry
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Published Online First 5 July 2006
Competing interests: None.