Assessing HER2 amplification in breast cancer: findings from the Australian In Situ Hybridization Program

M Bilous, Adrienne Morey, J Armes, Richard Bell, Peter Button, Margaret Cummings, Stephen Fox, Glenn Francis, Brigid Waite, Glenda McCue, Wendy Raymond, Peter Robbins, Gelareh Farshid

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    24 Citations (Scopus)


    In August 2006, the Australian government approved subsidized trastuzumab therapy for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive early breast cancer, and it was mandated that HER2 testing should be performed using in situ hybridization (ISH) rather than immunohistochemistry (IHC). Here we review results of the first regulated, nationwide program to provide HER2 ISH testing for all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, with a particular emphasis on cases where IHC and ISH results were discordant. Data from all laboratories participating in the program were collated. Cases with an equivocal ISH test result [by chromogenic ISH (≥ISH) or silver ISH (SISH)] were tested centrally by fluorescence ISH. Most laboratories also performed HER2 IHC, and 200 cases with discordant IHC and ISH results were selected for further analysis in a central laboratory. A total of 26 laboratories were involved and 53,402 tests were reported. Over a 4-year period the HER2 positivity rate decreased for primary cancers from 23.8 to 14.6 %, but remained relatively constant for samples from metastases. Average ISH reporting times were<5 days for all yearly reporting periods. Test-repeat rates decreased for CISH (8.9-3.6 %) and SISH (13.7-8.4 %). Only 12 of 196 cases remained discordant after retesting in a central laboratory. These findings demonstrate the successful implementation of a regulated, national program that continues to collect data on HER2 status. The results also highlight the differences in IHC interpretation between local laboratories and a central, more experienced, laboratory. This model could be used to establish future biomarker-testing programs in other countries.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)617-624
    Number of pages8
    JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


    • Breast cancer
    • HER2 genes
    • Immunohistochemistry
    • In situ hybridization


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