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Br J Cancer. 1999 May;80(3-4):519-25.

c-erbB2/neu gene and chromosome 17 analysis in breast cancer by FISH on archival cytological fine-needle aspirates.

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Divisione di Anatomia e Istologia Patologica e Citopatologia, Istituto Nazional e per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumouri, Milano, Italy.


The detection of specific genetic alterations in breast cancer is useful for diagnosing, predicting prognosis and planning preoperative treatment. c-erbB2/neu overexpression is usually detected by immunocytochemistry (ICC), although this technique is neither completely reproducible nor highly reliable, owing to specimen and methodologic variability and antibody sensitivity. Here, we combine two well-established techniques, fine-needle aspiration (FNA) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), to detect c-erbB2/neu amplification in patients candidate to primary chemotherapy and, in part, previously analysed for c-erbB2/neu overexpression. Sixty smears from FNA were used to simultaneously detect c-erbB2/neu and chromosome 17 centromere. FISH was successful in 58 cases and detected 24 amplified cases, three of which were negative by immunophenotyping, 28 negative cases, with evidence of two normal c-erbB2/neu/signals, two cases with deletion of c-erbB2/neu, and four cases with polysomy, thus providing more reliable and informative results than ICC. This study underlines the advantages offered by the FNA and FISH combination which are two rapid, reliable, simple and informative techniques, to analyse one of the most important genetic markers for predicting prognosis and chemotherapy planning for breast carcinoma in particular in the light of the recently proposed trials of primary chemotherapy.

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