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J Cytol. 2019 Apr-Jun;36(2):94-100. doi: 10.4103/JOC.JOC_117_18.

Hormone Receptors and Human Epidermal Growth Factor (HER2) Expression in Fine-Needle Aspirates from Metastatic Breast Carcinoma - Role in Patient Management.

Author information

Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Kuwait University, Kuwait.
Laboratory Department - Cytology Unit, Kuwait Cancer Control Centre, Kuwait.
Department of Histopathology, Amiri Hospital, Kuwait.



Estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR), and epidermal growth factor (HER2) are prognostic and predictive factors for breast carcinoma. We determined them by immunohistochemistry (IHC) on cell blocks from fine-needle aspirates (FNA) of metastatic breast carcinoma to axillary lymphnodes and compared them with that reported in the primary breast carcinoma (PBC) to document any change in their expression for future management.

Materials and Methods:

ER, PR, and HER2 by IHC and HER2 oncogene by fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH) were studied on cell blocks of FNA of axillary lymphnodes in 53 of 94 PBC cases from 2012 to 2016.


In 25 of 38 (65.8%) ER, PR negative PBC the metastasis on FNA was ER, PR+, whereas the 15 (28.3%) ER, PRPBC remained negative. In 10 of 11 (91%) of HER2-IHC+, PBC the metastatic tumor was HER2-IHC+. 7 of 32 (21.9%) HER2-IHC negative PBC were HER2-IHC+ in metastatic tumor. HER2-FISH was performed in 37 cases on FNA. Six of 37 were HER2 amplified/positive, whereas 9 and 19 remained equivocal and negative for HER2 copy number, and 3 were not interpretable. All the 6 HER2-FISH+ cases were positive by IHC. In our study, 34.2% of ER, PR+ cases of PBC became ER, PR- in the metastatic tumor and 21.9% of HER2-IHC negative PBC became HER2-IHC+ in the metastatic aspirate.


ER, PR, and HER2 by IHC in cell blocks of metastatic lymphnodes are reliable. Change in receptor (34.2%) and HER2 status (21.9%) was documented, which is of clinical significance as these patients warrant a change of management.


Fine-needle aspirates; HER2; hormonal receptors; metastatic lymphnodes; primary breast carcinoma

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