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Oncology. 1997 Nov-Dec;54(6):475-81.

Tissue expression and serum levels of HER-2/neu in patients with breast cancer.

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Clinical Division of Oncology, University Hospital, Vienna, Austria.


We have analyzed serum levels of soluble HER-2/neu in 42 primary breast cancer patients prior to any therapy and studied the relationship between the overexpression and amplification of HER-2/neu in the primary tumor after surgical excision and data obtained by pathohistological staging. In addition, we have investigated the sera of 62 patients with stage IV breast cancer. Using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, we observed elevated serum HER-2/neu levels in 6/42 (14.2%) preoperative patients. In 42.8% of the patients with HER-2/neu tumor expression/amplification serum levels were increased. In contrast, only 8.5% of the patients without HER-2/neu expression/amplification in the primary tumor presented with elevated serum levels. There was a significant correlation between serum concentrations of soluble HER-2/neu and tumor size (p < 0.0001) or axillary lymph node involvement (p < 0.0001). In patients with stage IV disease, 27 of 62 (43.5%) had elevated soluble HER-2/neu serum levels. A highly significant correlation between soluble HER-2/ neu and CA 15-3 (p < 0.002) was observed. The correlation of serum concentrations of HER-2/neu with estrogen and progesterone receptor status of the primary tumor was not significant in both groups. In conclusion, the measurement of serum HER-2/neu levels at diagnosis defines a small subgroup of breast cancer patients with a relatively advanced stage of disease. Its strong correlation with tumor load in patients with stage II disease and the high prevalence in patients with stage IV disease could make it a promising tool for the assessment of disease activity and biologic behavior in breast cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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