Aim: Basal-like breast tumours, as defined by microarrays, carry a poor prognosis and therapeutic options are limited to date. Often, these tumours are defined as oestrogen receptor (ER) negative/progesterone receptor (PR) negative/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2) negative (triple negative) by immunohistochemistry (IHC), but a more complete definition should include expression of basal cytokeratins (CK5/6, CK14 or CK17) and/or human epidermal growth factor receptor 1 (HER-1). The aim of this study was to investigate to what extent CK5/6 and HER-1 characterise the group of triple negative breast cancers.
Methods: Expression of CK5/6 and HER-1 was studied by IHC in 25 triple negative breast carcinomas and 32 grade-matched, non-triple-negative controls. All 57 cases were further subjected to fluorescence in situ hybridisation to investigate HER-1 gene copy number.
Results: CK5/6 and HER-1 expression was most frequent in triple negative tumours: 22 out of 25 cases (88.0%) expressed at least one of these markers (60.0% CK5/6 positive and 52.0% HER-1 positive). In the control group, CK5/6 and HER-1 expression was found in ER-negative but not in ER-positive tumours (ER negative/PR negative/HER-2 positive tumours: 20.0% CK5/6 positive and 46.7% HER-1 positive). HER-1 gene amplification was found in five cases only: four triple negative (16.0%) and one ER-negative control (ER negative/PR negative/HER-2 positive, 6.7%). Of interest, all five HER-1 amplified cases showed a remarkably homogeneous HER-1 expression pattern.
Conclusion: Expression of CK5/6 and HER-1 is frequent in ER-negative breast cancers, in triple negative and in non-triple negative tumours. In a minority of cases, HER-1 overexpression may be caused by HER-1 gene amplification. Further studies are needed to investigate whether such cases might benefit from anti-HER-1 therapy
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
Competing interests: None.