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Expert analysis of HER2 tests reveals issues with reliability, Mayo Clinic researchers say
Date:12/11/2010

SAN ANTONIO -- Results for testing breast tumors for HER2 (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/breast-cancer/AN00495) proteins and genes is most often straightforward when one piece of tumor (a single tumor block) is analyzed. However, tumors can be diverse, and researchers at Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/) found that HER2 results can vary in up to 10 percent of patients when several tumor blocks are analyzed.

This could have significant implications for patient treatment, say the researchers, who are presenting their findings at the 33rd Annual CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (http://www.sabcs.org/).

In their study, the researchers found that while three independent teams of expert pathologists agreed most of the time on how slices from a single tumor block from a patient should be classified in terms of HER2 genes and proteins, a consensus was harder to reach when several blocks from the same patient were available for analysis.

In fact, the pathologists, from central laboratories at Mayo Clinic, the University of Southern California, and the University of Pittsburgh, found significant heterogeneity, or variability, between two tumor blocks taken from the same patient in 5 to 10 percent of cases. Most often, one tumor block showed a normal HER2 expression, while the second piece of tumor tested HER2+.

Researchers say these findings matter because women with HER2+ breast cancer can benefit from Herceptin (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR601547), a drug designed to shut down a powerful cancer growth pathway.

"Even among expert pathologists there can be disagreements about what a tumor is telling us, and that impacts the care our patients receive," says the st
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Contact: Nicole Engler
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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