Recent trials have shown remarkable efficacy from combined trastuzumab and chemotherapy in the adjuvant setting of breast cancer. In spite of these successes, refractory breast cancer has emerged as a clinically problematic outcome for a subset of patients managed this way. In an effort to clarify and optimize the treatment regimens for breast cancer patients who are candidates to receive trastuzumab, we sought to analyze whether a distinctive genetic signature could be characterized that would reliably predict the treatment outcome. The ability to predict who will respond and who will become refractory to this agent will allow for improved, rational clinical management of these patients and further stratify the personalized nature of this treatment regimen. In this study, 41 consecutive cases of breast carcinoma with well-documented amplification of the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 gene and corresponding banked fresh-frozen tissue were identified and divided into two separate groups based on whether they received trastuzumab or not. The first group consisted of 12 patients who had received trastuzumab in the adjuvant setting, of which three later experienced tumor recurrence. The second group consisted of 10 patients not treated with trastuzumab, of which 6 were later found to have recurrence. Differentially expressed genetic profiles were determined using human genome-wide Illumina Bead Microarrays. The differentially expressed genes for non-recurrence vs recurrence in the trastuzumab-treated group were distinct from those in the same comparison group in the untreated group. Differential expression of key genes indentified in this study might offer an insight into a possible mechanism of trastuzumab resistance in breast carcinoma, and may emerge as potential predictive biomarkers indicative of trastuzumab resistance.
- Gene signature