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Diagn Mol Pathol. 2003 Dec;12(4):201-11.

HER-2/neu protein expression and gene alteration in stage I-IIIA non-small-cell lung cancer: a study of 140 cases using a combination of high throughput tissue microarray, immunohistochemistry, and fluorescent in situ hybridization.

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Department of Pathology, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA.


Regarding HER-2/neu expression (gene or protein level) in lung cancer, several studies with inconsistent results have been recently reported, partially due to variable techniques used and/or heterogeneous populations examined. The objective of this study was to examine HER-2/neu expression in a well-defined cohort of non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLC) and in nonneoplastic lung tissue utilizing a combination of high-density tissue microarray, immunohistochemistry (IHC), and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) under uniform test conditions. One hundred forty stage I-IIIA primary NSCLCs and 38 non-neoplastic lung samples were examined. IHC, using an FDA-approved Hercept monoclonal antibody kit, was performed and HER-2/neu gene alteration was assessed by FISH. The association of expression of HER-2/neu with clinicopathologic parameters was analyzed. Ninety-four percent of tumor samples (131/140) were fully interpretable after tissue processing. Twenty-five of them (19%) overexpressed (2+, 3+) HER-2/neu, while 106 (81%) had no or weak expression. All thirty-four interpretable non-neoplastic lung samples were negative for HER-2/neu alteration at protein and gene level. HER-2/neu protein overexpression correlated well with HER-2/neu gene amplification (r =.83, P < 0.001). HER-2/neu overexpression was significantly associated with histologic subtype: 19 adenocarcinomas (19/82, 23%) versus 4 squamous cell carcinomas (4/44, 9%) overexpressed Her-2/neu (P = 0.04). Statistical significance was observed between HER-2/neu expression and tumor differentiation, with strong positive (3+) expression observed more frequently in poorly differentiated tumors (P = 0.01). Patients with HER-2/neu abnormalities, particularly HER-2/neu gene amplification, exhibited a shorter survival (P = 0.043). The statistically significant difference (P < 0.005) between HER-2/neu alteration in tumor samples(25/131, 19%) and in the nonneoplastic tissue (0/34, 0%) implies that HER-2/neu may have a role in the carcinogenesis of NSCLC. The findings provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that the HER-2/neu receptor may represent a useful molecular target in the treatment of NSCLC. The significant association of HER-2/neu expression and gene amplification with poorly differentiated carcinoma compared with well differentiated carcinoma suggests that HER-2/neu may be involved in NSCLC tumor evolution. Patients with HER-2/neu gene amplification and strong positive expression of HER-2/neu protein showed a strong tendency toward shorter survival.

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