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Eur J Cancer. 2004 Jan;40(1):56-63.

HER2/neu gene amplification and protein overexpression in G3 pT2 transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder: a role for anti-HER2 therapy?

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University Department of Surgery, Level II, Queen Elizabeth Building, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow G31 2ER, UK.


HER2/neu is an oncogene encoding a type 1 tyrosine kinase growth factor receptor. Polysomy 17, gene amplification and HER2/neu protein overexpression are associated with a poor prognosis in transitional cell carcinomas (TCC) of the bladder. Due to the application of different laboratory techniques, the exact incidence of HER/neu abnormalities remains uncertain in TCC. Standardised laboratory techniques are therefore important in the determination of the HER2/neu status if an assessment of the potential value of anti-HER2/neu treatments in the clinical management of patients with TCC is to be made. In this study, 75 TCCs with evidence of detrusor muscle invasion at first clinical presentation were included. Gene amplification, polysomy 17 and HER2 copy number were assessed using fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH), with separate probes for chromosome 17 and HER2/neu. Protein overexpression was assessed using immunohistochemistry (IHC), with the CB11 antibody and a scoring system evaluating only membranous staining as positive. The mean patient age was 69.5 years (range 42-93 years) and the median survival was 15 months (range 1-156 months). Polysomy 17 occurred in 97%, increased HER/neu copy number in 92% and HER2/neu gene amplification in 7%. Protein overexpression occurred in 57% of cases. Polysomy 17 and HER2/neu protein overexpression are common in G3 pT2 TCCs of the bladder. However, gene amplification is uncommon. Mechanisms other than gene amplification may be responsible for protein overexpression in this tumour type. Evidence from breast cancer suggests that only tumours with HER2/neu gene amplification respond to the anti-HER2/neu therapy trastuzumab (Herceptin). If this were true for bladder cancer, only 4/75 (5%) of G3 pT2 TCCs would be suitable for treatment. The role of trastuzumab in these tumours remains untested at present.

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