Clinical significance of quantitative categorization of HER2 fluorescent in situ hybridization results in invasive breast cancer patients treated with HER2-targeted agents

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Modern pathology


HER2 (ERBB2) gene status serves as a strong predictive marker of response to HER2-targeted agents in invasive breast cancers, albeit with heterogeneous response. Our aim was to determine the distribution and prognosis of HER2 groups by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) using the updated 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology-College of American Pathologist (ASCO-CAP) guidelines. We identified 226 cases of equivocal or positive HER2 FISH invasive breast cancer (interpreted by ASCO-CAP guidelines at the time of reporting) who received HER2-targeted agents from 2006 to 2017. We subcategorized Group 1 further into three subgroups: low amplified (HER2/CEP17 ratio ≥ 2.0-2.99, mean HER2/cell 4.0-5.9), amplified (HER2/CEP17 ratio ≥ 2.0-2.99, mean HER2/cell ≥ 6), and excessive amplification (HER2/CEP17 ratio ≥ 3.0, mean HER2/cell ≥ 4.0). Outcomes studied were recurrence, metastasis, second breast primary, disease-specific survival (DSS), and overall survival (OS). Univariate analysis showed that the five categories of HER2 FISH were significantly associated with OS (p < 0.01), specifically higher HER2 amplification was associated with fewer deaths. HER2 FISH status also statistically significantly relates to DFS (p < 0.01) and metastasis (p = 0.01) but not with recurrence or second breast primary in our study. Tumor type and HER2 ISH Groups are independent predictors for both OS and DFS in our cohort. The proposed Group 1 subcategories were significantly associated with OS (p < 0.01) and DFS (p < 0.01), excessive HER2 amplification was associated with longer median survival. The Cox regression models showed better survival outcomes for the excessive amplification subgroup than the low amplified subgroup, with OS (hazard ratio = 0.63, 95% CI 0.42-0.93) and DFS (HR = 0.55, 95% CI 0.37-0.83). We demonstrated that in HER2 FISH Group 1 patients, high HER2 amplification was significantly associated with longer OS and DFS; these patients seem to benefit more from HER2-targeted regimens. We recommend reporting these Group 1 subcategories when assessing HER2 FISH.

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ePub ahead of print