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Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM)

Published in Association with the European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (EFLM)

Editor-in-Chief: Plebani, Mario

Ed. by Gillery, Philippe / Lackner, Karl J. / Lippi, Giuseppe / Melichar, Bohuslav / Payne, Deborah A. / Schlattmann, Peter / Tate, Jillian R.

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CiteScore 2016: 2.21

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Volume 50, Issue 1 (Jan 2012)


Circulating levels of HER-2/neu oncoprotein in breast cancer

Rafael Molina / Jose M. Escudero
  • Laboratory of Biochemistry (Oncobiology Unit), School of Medicine, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Montse Muñoz
  • Laboratory of Biochemistry (Oncobiology Unit), School of Medicine, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Jose M. Augé
  • Laboratory of Biochemistry (Oncobiology Unit), School of Medicine, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Xavier Filella
  • Laboratory of Biochemistry (Oncobiology Unit), School of Medicine, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2012-01-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cclm.2011.822


HER-2/neu, also known as c-erbB-2/neu, is an oncogene located in chromosome 17 which encodes HER-2/neu, a transmembrane protein belonging to the EGFR family. The external domain of this protein is released by the cell and can be studied in serum by immunoassay. HER-2/neu in serum is a specific tumor marker and only slight elevations may be found in the absence of malignancy, mainly in association with liver diseases. Likewise, the highest concentrations of this oncoprotein are found in patients with breast cancer, but lower concentrations may be found in other malignancies, particularly ovarian, prostate and lung cancer (mainly adenocarcinomas). HER-2/neu assay sensitivity in patients with untreated primary loco-regional breast cancer is <10% and seems to be related to overexpression in tissue as well as to the most important prognostic factors: tumor size and nodal involvement. Serial HER-2/neu determinations after surgery seem to be useful in the early diagnosis of recurrence, mainly in patients with HER-2/neu overexpression in tissue, but additional studies are necessary to confirm these results. HER-2/neu sensitivity (proportion of patients with abnormal values) in patients with metastasis is around 40%–45%, with a clear relationship to tissue overexpression and to site (higher in visceral metastases) and number of metastases. The clinical utility of HER-2/neu in patients with advanced disease is mainly for therapeutic monitoring. Likewise, in most of the studies published, a relationship has been found between serum HER-2/neu levels (either pretreatment or at follow-up) with tumor response.

Keywords: breast cancer; CA 15.3; carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA); HER-2/neu; oncoproteins; tumor markers

About the article

Corresponding author: Rafael Molina, MD, PhD, Oncobiology Unit, Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Hospital Clinic, Villarroel 170, Barcelona 08036, Spain

Received: 2011-07-25

Accepted: 2011-11-20

Published Online: 2012-01-04

Published in Print: 2012-01-01

Citation Information: Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, ISSN (Online) 1437-4331, ISSN (Print) 1434-6621, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cclm.2011.822.

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©2011 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

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