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J Am Soc Cytopathol. 2017 Jan-Feb;6(1):33-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jasc.2016.10.001.

Cytologic assessment of estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER2 status in metastatic breast carcinoma.

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Department of Pathology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY 10065, USA.
Department of Pathology, Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health System, 100 E 77 Street, New York, NY 10075, USA.



Discordance in the receptor status between primary breast carcinomas (PBC) and corresponding metastasis is well documented. Interrogation of the receptor status of metastatic breast carcinoma (MBC) in cytology material is common practice; however, its utility has not been thoroughly validated. We studied patients with MBC, and evaluated the concordance rates of estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) between PBC surgical specimens and corresponding MBC cell blocks (CBs). We correlated the findings with clinicopathologic variables and with the fixation methods used.


We searched for patients with MBC diagnosed on cytology from 2007 to 2009 and selected those with ER, PR and HER2 tested in both the PBC surgical specimens and the MBC CBs. We included CBs fixed in formalin and methanol based solution (CytoLyt®). All slides were reevaluated by cytopathologists. Clinical information was retrieved from the medical records.


We studied 65 patients with PBC and MBC paired specimens. The concordance rates between PBC and MBC were 78.5%, 58.5% and 96.9%, for ER, PR and HER2, respectively. When discordant, PR status switched from positive (PBC) to negative (MBC) in most cases (23/27). The PR concordance rate was 45.2% for CBs fixed in formalin and 70.6% for those fixed with CytoLyt® (p=0.047).


The ER, PR and HER2 concordance rates between the PBC and MBC CBs are similar to those reported in paired surgical specimens. PR status was the most prevalent discordance and was not accompanied by a switch in ER.


FNA; HER2; breast cancer; cytology; estrogen receptor; metastasis; progesterone receptor

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