Intratumor heterogeneity of biomarker expression in breast carcinomas

Academic Article


  • Small biopsy samples are used increasingly to assess the biomarker expression for prognostic information and for monitoring therapeutic responses prior to and during neoadjuvant therapy. The issue of intratumor heterogeneity of expression of biomarkers, however, has raised questions about the validity of the assessment of biomarker expression based on limited tissue samples. We examined immunohistochemically the expression of HER-2neu (p185erbB-2), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), Bcl-2, p53, and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) in 30 breast carcinomas using archived, paraffin embedded tissue and determined the extent of intratumor heterogeneity. Each section was divided into four randomly oriented discrete regions, each containing a portion of the infiltrating carcinoma. For each tumor, the entire lesion and four regions were analyzed for the expression of these markers. Scores of both membrane and cytoplasmic staining of HER-2neu and EGFR, scores of cytoplasmic staining of Bcl-2, and scores of nuclear staining of both p53 and PCNA were recorded. The intensity of staining and the proportion of immunostained cells were determined. A semiquantitative immunoscore was calculated by determining the sum of the products of the intensity and corresponding proportion of stained tumor cells. We analyzed both invasive (IDC) and in situ (DCIS) carcinomas. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used for paired comparisons between overall and regional immunoscores and between overall and regional percentages of stained cells. Spearman's correlation coefficients were used to assess the level of agreement of overall biomarker expression with each of the regions. Generalized linear models were used to assess overall and pair-wise differences in the absolute values of percent changes between overall and regional expression of biomarkers. For IDCs, there were no statistically significant differences in the expression of the biomarkers in terms of either the percentage of cells staining or the immunoscores when comparing the entire tumor with each region except for the lower EGFR expression of arbitrarily selected region 1 and lower p53 expression of region 1 compared to that of the entire tumor section. For DCIS, there were no statistically significant differences in the expression of the biomarkers between the entire tumor and each region except in PCNA of region 2 compared to that of entire tumor section. Positive correlation of immunoscores was observed between the entire tumor and each region as well as across all four regions for IDC. Similar observations were noted with DCIS except for HER-2neu and PCNA. No statistically significant differences were observed in the absolute values of percent changes of biomarker expression between overall and the four regions for both DCIS and IDC. Therefore, no significant intratumor heterogeneity in the expression of HER-2neu, Bcl-2, and PCNA was observed in IDC. Minor regional variations were observed for EGFR and p53 in IDC. Similarly, no significant regional variation in the expression of markers was observed in DCIS except for PCNA. © Biological Stain Commission.
  • Published In

  • Stain technology  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Chhieng DC; Frost AR; Niwas S; Weiss H; Grizzle WE; Beeken S
  • Start Page

  • 25
  • End Page

  • 36
  • Volume

  • 79
  • Issue

  • 1