Although intratumoral heterogeneity of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) gene amplification has been associated with a poor prognosis for primary HER2-positive breast cancer and metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer treated with trastuzumab, the clinicopathologic significance in a setting involving trastuzumab treatment as an adjuvant treatment has not been studied in patients.
We retrospectively investigated 443 patients with HER2-positive breast cancer treated with surgery, adjuvant chemotherapy, and 1 year of trastuzumab. Three areas that showed different levels of HER2 protein expression were chosen, and silver in situ hybridization was performed.
HER2 regional and genetic heterogeneity was found in 6.2% and 6.8% of tumors, respectively. Both types of heterogeneity were significantly associated with hormone receptor positivity, HER2 immunohistochemistry score of 2+, a low level of HER2 gene amplification, and absence of an extensive intraductal component. Genetic heterogeneity also showed strong correlation with a lower histologic grade. In the hormone receptor-positive group, the regional heterogeneity affected disease-free survival of patients (hazard ratio, 4.869; 95% confidence interval, 1.424-16.646; P = .005), whereas genetic heterogeneity did not.
Evaluation of intratumoral heterogeneity, especially in cases with hormone receptor positivity, may be valuable for assessing the prognosis of HER2-positive patients anticipating treatment with adjuvant systemic therapy and trastuzumab.