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Br J Cancer. 1992 Jan;65(1):118-21.

Relationship between c-erbB-2 protein product expression and response to endocrine therapy in advanced breast cancer.

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Division of Pathology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


Of 221 patients with breast cancer of known epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and oestrogen receptor (ER) status, 99 had developed recurrences during the period of follow-up (range 3-60 months, median 24 months). Of these, 72 received endocrine therapy as first-line treatment for relapse. Immunohistochemical assessment of c-erbB-2 protein product expression was made using paraffin-embedded tumour tissue from 65 of these 72 patients. Including patients whose disease remained stable for more than 6 months with those showing an objective response (CR or PR for more than 3 months), only one (7%) of 14 c-erbB-2 positive tumours responded to endocrine manipulation compared with 19 (37%) of 51 c-erbB-2 negative tumours (P less than 0.05). Coexpression of c-erbB-2 reduced the response rate of ER positive patients from 48% to 20% and of ER negative cases from 27% to 0% (P less than 0.01). EGFR and c-erbB-2 protein appeared to have additive effects in reducing the likelihood of response, and none of eight patients with EGFR positive, c-erbB-2 positive tumours derived benefit from endocrine therapy. The results of this study suggest that c-erbB-2 protein overexpression, a marker of poor prognosis in breast cancer, is associated with a lack of response to endocrine therapy on relapse, and particularly in combination with EGFR may be useful in directing therapeutic choices.

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