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Lab Invest. 2018 Aug;98(8):1076-1083. doi: 10.1038/s41374-018-0064-1. Epub 2018 Jun 1.

Macrodissection prior to closed system RT-qPCR is not necessary for estrogen receptor and HER2 concordance with IHC/FISH in breast cancer.

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Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.
Anatomía Patológica, Clínica Alemana-Facultad de Medicina Universidad del Desarrollo, Santiago, Chile.
Division of Oncology Research and Development, Oncology, Cepheid, Sunnyvale, CA, USA.
Medical and Scientific Affairs and Strategy, Oncology, Cepheid, Sunnyvale, CA, USA.
Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.


An on-demand, closed RT-qPCR, the GeneXpert (GX) system, has the potential to provide biomarker information in low-resourced settings and elsewhere. We used this system with a research use only version of the Breast Cancer STRAT4 cartridge that measures the mRNA expression levels of ERBB2, ESR1, PGR, and MKi67. Here we evaluated the impact of non-macrodissected (non m-d) versus macrodissected (m-d) samples using STRAT4 on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) core needle biopsies. Two cohorts were assessed: (1) 60 FFPE infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDCA) cases and (2) 20 FFPE IDCA cases with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) with a range of HER2 expression as determined by clinical immunohistochemistry and fluorescence in situ hybridization (IHC/FISH). We observed about half of the core needle biopsy area as invasive tumor in both IDCA (mean = 51.5%) and IDCA with DCIS (mean = 53.5%) cohorts, but also found the mRNA levels were independent of tumor area. We found excellent agreement of the mRNA transcript level between the paired samples, m-d versus non m-d, for ERBB2, ESR1, PGR, and MKi67 for both the IDCA and IDCA with DCIS cohorts. No significant difference (P > 0.99) was observed when we compared the mRNA transcript level between the paired samples m-d versus non m-d. In addition, we noted a significant concordance (P < 0.001) between RT-qPCR and IHC/FISH for HER2-positivity, ER-positivity, and PR-positivity, independent of specimen dissection. These data suggest that mRNA expression for ERBB2, ESR, and PGR is sufficiently low in surrounding tissue cells such that macrodissection is not required for assessment of key breast cancer mRNA markers and is independent of the amount of input tumor. This approach may be valuable in settings lacking pathology expertise or using specimen types, such as fine-needle aspirates, where it may be challenging to separate non-tumor from tumor tissue.

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