Frequency of HER-2 positivity in rectal cancer and prognosis

Lena-Christin Conradi, Hanna Styczen, Thilo Sprenger, Hendrik A Wolff, Claus Rödel, Manuel Nietert, Kia Homayounfar, Jochen Gaedcke, Julia Kitz, Recca Talaulicar, Heinz Becker, Michael Ghadimi, Peter Middel, Tim Beissbarth, Josef Rüschoff, Torsten Liersch
American Journal of Surgical Pathology 2013, 37 (4): 522-31
In patients with advanced rectal cancer (cUICC II and III) multimodality therapy resulted in better long-term local tumor control. Ongoing clinical trials are focusing on therapy intensification to improve disease-free (DFS) and cancer-specific survival (CSS), the integration of biomarkers for prediction of individual recurrence risk, and the identification of new targets. In this context, we investigated HER-2, a member of the epidermal growth factor receptor family, whose expression pattern and role was unclear in rectal cancer. A total of 264 patients (192 male, 72 female; median age 64 y) received standardized multidisciplinary treatment according to protocols of phase II/III trials of the German Rectal Cancer Study Group. HER-2 status was determined in pretherapeutic biopsies and resection specimens using immunohistochemistry scoring and detection of silver in situ hybridization amplification. Tumors with an immunohistochemistry score of 3 or silver in situ hybridization ratios of ≥2.0 were classified HER-2 positive; these results were correlated with clinicopathologic parameters [eg, resection (R) status, nodal status ((y)pN)], DFS, and CSS. Positive HER-2 status was found in 12.4% of biopsies and in 26.7% of resected specimens. With a median follow-up of 46.5 months, patients with HER-2 positivity showed in trend a better DFS (P=0.1) and a benefit in CSS (P=0.03). The 5-year survival rate was 96.0% (HER-2 positive) versus 80.0% (HER-2 negative). In univariate and multivariate analyses, HER-2 was an independent predictor for CSS (0.02) along with the (y)pN status (P<0.00001) and R status (P=0.011). HER-2 amplification is detectable in a relevant proportion (26.7%) of rectal cancer patients. For the development of innovative new therapies, HER-2 may represent a promising target and should be further assessed within prospective clinical trials.

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