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Eur J Cancer. 1992;28(2-3):644-8.

Overexpression of the c-erbB-2 oncoprotein: why does this occur more frequently in ductal carcinoma in situ than in invasive mammary carcinoma and is this of prognostic significance?

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  • 1ICRF Clinical Oncology Unit, Guy's Hospital, London, U.K.


Overexpression of c-erbB-2 occurs in 60% of in situ and 25% of infiltrating ductal carcinomas. We have previously found very strong associations between immunohistochemical staining for c-erbB-2 and histological pattern and nuclear size in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and less strong correlation with proliferative activity. In a further study of infiltrating ductal carcinomas we have found that, in addition to tumours arising from c-erbB-2 positive, large celled, rapidly proliferating, comedo carcinomas and c-erbB-2 negative small celled cribriform/micropapillary carcinomas with a low proliferative rate, there is a third group of c-erbB-2 negative tumours with large nuclei and variable proliferative activity. These latter tumours are not seen in pure DCIS suggesting that they have a very transient in situ stage. Therefore, although in pure DCIS c-erbB-2 positively appears to be associated with tumours with a greater invasive potential, and c-erbB-2 negativity with tumours having a more favourable prognosis, the latter is not necessarily true in infiltrating disease.

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