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J Clin Oncol. 1997 Jul;15(7):2518-25.

Prediction of response to antiestrogen therapy in advanced breast cancer patients by pretreatment circulating levels of extracellular domain of the HER-2/c-neu protein.

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  • 1Lombardi Cancer Center, Department of Medicine, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA.



Overexpression of the HER-2/c-neu/c-erbB2 proto-oncogene is associated with a worse prognosis in patients with breast cancer, perhaps due to an association of the HER-2 proto-oncogene protein with resistance to hormone and/or chemotherapy. Circulating levels of the extracellular domain (ECD) of the HER-2/c-neu-related protein (NRP) are elevated in 20% to 40% of patients with metastatic breast cancer. We investigated whether pretreatment levels of NRP predict response to hormone therapy (HT).


Circulating NRP levels were determined in 94 patients who participated in a randomized trial of three different doses of the antiestrogen, droloxifene (DRO), as first-line HT for metastatic breast cancer.


NRP levels were elevated (> or = 5,000 U/mL) in 32 of 94 patients (34%). Only three of 32 patients (9%) with elevated NRP levels responded to DRO, compared with 35 of 62 (56%) with nonelevated NRP levels (P = .00001). Low pretreatment NRP level was the most powerful predictor of response to DRO (odds ratio of response, 22.4; P = .0001). Elevated pretreatment NRP levels were also associated with a shorter time to progression (TTP) and survival duration.


Pretreatment circulating NRP levels predict a low likelihood of benefit from HT, specifically DRO, in patients with estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and/or progesterone receptor (PgR)-positive or receptor-unknown metastatic breast cancer, even when adjusted for other known predictive factors, such as ER and/or PgR levels, site of disease, disease-free interval from primary treatment to recurrence, and prior adjuvant chemotherapy. These data suggest that pretreatment NRP levels may be useful in deciding whether to treat a patient who otherwise appears to be likely to respond to HT.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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