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Oncogene. 1998 Oct 15;17(15):1949-57.

c-erbB3 and c-erbB4 expression is a feature of the endocrine responsive phenotype in clinical breast cancer.

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Tenovus Cancer Research Centre, University of Wales College of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff, UK.


We examined c-erbB3 and c-erbB4 mRNA expression in 47 primary breast cancer samples by simultaneous RT-PCR and have investigated correlations between these parameters and the expression of both ER and EGFR mRNA and protein as measured by RT-PCR and ICA and with Ki67 immunostaining. A direct association was found between c-erbB3 and c-erbB4 mRNA and ER marker status measured by either RT-PCR (c-erbB3 P = 0.0003; c-erbB4 P = 0.02) or ICA (c-erbB-3 P = 0.002; c-erbB4 P = 0.01). Inverse associations were seen between c-erbB3 and c-erbB4 mRNA marker status and EGFR membrane protein (c-erbB3: P = 0.003; cerbB4: P = 0.003) and mRNA (c-erbB4: P = 0.009) status. These associations were reinforced by Spearman Rank Correlation Tests. A significant relationship was seen between Ki67 and c-erbB4 mRNA status and level. Measurements of c-erbB3 protein levels in tumour samples removed from a further 89 patients of known response to endocrine therapy: (i) confirmed the relationship between c-erbB3 and ER and (ii) identified that patients whose ER positive tumours expressed high levels of c-erbB3 were most likely to benefit from endocrine measures. A non-significant trend was recorded between c-erbB3 levels and Ki67 immunostaining. These results clearly demonstrate that increased c-erbB3 and c-erbB4 expression appears to be associated with the prognostically-favourable ER phenotype.

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