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Int J Cancer. 2001 Jul 20;95(4):266-70.

c-erbB-2 (HER-2/neu) gene amplification is a better indicator of poor prognosis than protein over-expression in operable breast-cancer patients.

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UMGC, Département de Biologie Clinique, Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France.


Our aim was to compare the prognostic value of c-erbB-2 gene amplification analyzed by Southern blot with that of protein (p185) over-expression measured by immunohistochemistry in 172 patients with operable breast cancer (BC). Amplification and p185 over-expression were found in 31 (18%) and 51 (30%) BCs, respectively. All but 1 of the tumors showed both amplification and over-expression, while 21 (12%) tumors displayed over-expression without amplification. The risk of death associated with c-erbB-2 gene amplification and p185 over-expression was evaluated by multivariate analysis, taking into account tumor size, histoprognostic grade, hormone receptors and axillary node status. During a mean follow-up of 9.5 (+/-2) years, node involvement (p < 0.001), c-erbB-2 gene amplification (p = 0.02) and negative hormone receptors (p = 0.02) were found to be independent prognostic indicators of the risk of death. Over-expression of p185 with no amplification was not correlated with this risk. When the risk of death associated with c-erbB-2 amplification was studied according to chemo- and hormone therapy, no significant difference was observed between subgroups of subjects. Amplification was also associated (p = 0.02) with the risk of multifocal distant metastases (i.e., metastases detected concomitantly in at least 2 sites) and, thus, with BC aggressiveness. These data show the importance of c-erbB-2 gene amplification in predicting the long-term outcome of patients and in selecting eligible patients for c-erbB-2-targeted therapies.

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