ERBB2 and TOP2A in breast cancer: a comprehensive analysis of gene amplification, RNA levels, and protein expression and their influence on prognosis and prediction

Jan C Brase, Marcus Schmidt, Thomas Fischbach, Holger Sültmann, Hans Bojar, Heinz Koelbl, Birte Hellwig, Jörg Rahnenführer, Jan G Hengstler, Mathias C Gehrmann
Clinical Cancer Research 2010 April 15, 16 (8): 2391-401

PURPOSE: The prognostic and predictive relevance of epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (ERBB2) and topoisomerase II alpha (TOP2A) have long been a matter of debate. However, the correlation of DNA amplification, RNA levels, and protein expression and their prognostic role and association with anthracycline responses in node-negative breast cancer have not yet been evaluated.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We first analyzed TOP2A and ERBB2 at the levels of gene amplification, and RNA and protein expression, and studied their correlations. Additionally, TOP2A and ERBB2 were analyzed in 782 node-negative breast carcinomas in patients who did not receive systemic therapy and in 80 patients treated with epirubicin and cyclophosphamide (EC) prior to surgery.

RESULTS: TOP2A gene amplification did not correlate with protein expression (P = 0.283) and showed an association with gene expression with only borderline significance (P = 0.047). By contrast, TOP2A RNA levels correlated with protein expression (P < 0.001). TOP2A gene expression was significantly associated with the metastasis-free interval (MFI; P < 0.001) and was associated with complete remission in patients treated with EC (P = 0.002). In contrast to TOP2A, ERBB2 gene amplification correlated with RNA level (P < 0.001) and protein expression (P < 0.001). ERBB2 gene expression was associated with the MFI only in estrogen receptor-positive carcinomas, whereas ERBB2 protein expression (P = 0.032) was associated with MFI in the entire cohort.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, our study indicates that the TOP2A RNA level is a good prognostic marker and is also associated with a favorable response to anthracyclin-based therapy. By contrast, ESR1 was associated with poorer responses to anthracyclin-based therapy, whereas the association with ERBB2 RNA was not significant.

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