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N Engl J Med. 1994 May 5;330(18):1260-6.

c-erbB-2 expression and response to adjuvant therapy in women with node-positive early breast cancer.

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Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Erratum in

  • N Engl J Med 1994 Jul 21;331(3):211.



The role of molecular markers in predicting the response to treatment of breast cancer is poorly defined. The Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) conducted a randomized adjuvant-chemotherapy trial (CALGB 8541) comparing three doses (high, moderate, and low) of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and fluorouracil in 1572 women with node-positive breast cancer. This study (CALGB 8869) was designed to determine whether the DNA index, the S-phase fraction, c-erbB-2 expression, or p53 accumulation could be used as a marker to identify a subgroup of patients more likely than others to benefit from high doses of chemotherapy.


Tissue blocks were obtained from 442 patients randomly selected from the larger CALGB trial. Paraffin sections from the primary lesions were analyzed for DNA content, S-phase fraction, c-erbB-2 expression, and p53 accumulation.


Patients randomly assigned to the high-dose regimen of adjuvant chemotherapy had significantly longer disease-free and overall survival if their tumors had c-erbB-2 overexpression. No further information was gained by adding the data on S-phase fraction or p53 accumulation to the analysis. There was no clear evidence of a dose-response effect in patients with minimal or no c-erbB-2 expression.


There is a significant dose-response effect of adjuvant chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and fluorouracil in patients with overexpression of c-erbB-2 but not in patients with no c-erbB-2 expression or minimal c-erbB-2 expression. Overexpression of c-erbB-2 may be a useful marker to identify the patients who are most likely to benefit from high doses of adjuvant chemotherapy.

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