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Cancer. 1994 Feb 1;73(3):652-8.

Elevated erbB-2 oncoprotein levels in preoperative and follow-up serum samples define an aggressive disease course in patients with breast cancer.

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1
University of Tampere, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Finland.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Recent evidence indicates that a soluble fragment of the erbB-2 oncogene product may be released from cell surface and become detectable in the serum of patients with breast cancer.

METHODS:

To study the diagnostic utility of this phenomenon, the authors measured serum erbB-2 levels with a quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in 227 preoperative samples from women who underwent breast surgery and in 339 samples from 225 patients with breast cancer during follow-up.

RESULTS:

Eleven (9%) of 114 preoperative samples from patients with a histologically verified breast cancer and 2 of 113 (1.8%) from patients with benign breast tumors had elevated (greater than 20 U/ml) serum erbB-2 antigen levels. Ten (91%) of the 11 carcinomas and one of the benign tumors from patients with elevated serum erbB-2 levels also showed overexpression of the erbB-2 protein in immunohistochemical analysis of tissue sections. Elevated preoperative serum erbB-2 levels were predominantly found in patients with large tumors, and those with axillary lymph node or distant metastases. Sixty-three of the 339 (19%) follow-up samples had elevated serum erbB-2 antigen levels. Approximately one-third (30.9%) of the samples taken during recurrent disease were serum erbB-2 positive, which is close to the overall overexpression rate of this oncogene. Elevated erbB-2 levels were more common in patients whose disease was not responsive to treatment. Patients with distant metastases had elevate erbB-2 levels more often (40%) than did those with locoregional recurrence (20%). Elevated erbB-2 levels predicted the appearance of metastases within the next 6 months in 10 of 27 (37%) patients.

CONCLUSION:

The study's results suggest that assay serum erbB-2 levels may be valuable in the follow-up and monitoring of patients with breast cancer whose primary tumors show erbB-2 overexpression by immunohistochemistry.

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