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01.12.2018 | Technical advance | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Cancer 1/2018

A novel detection methodology for HER2 protein quantitation in formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded clinical samples using fluorescent nanoparticles: an analytical and clinical validation study

BMC Cancer > Ausgabe 1/2018
David G. Hicks, Brandon Buscaglia, Hideki Goda, Loralee McMahon, Takako Natori, Bradley Turner, Armen Soukiazian, Hisatake Okada, Yasushi Nakano



Clinical assays for the assessment of the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) status in breast cancer include immunohistochemistry (IHC) and in situ hybridization (ISH), both of which have limitations. Recent studies have suggested that a more quantitative approach to the measurement of HER2 protein expression may improve specificity in selecting patients for HER-2 targeted therapy. In the current study, we have used HER2 expression in breast cancer cell lines and clinical samples as a model to explore the potential utility of a novel immunodetection technique, using streptavidin coated Phosphor Integrated Dot fluorescent nanoparticles (PID), which can be quantitatively measured using computer analysis.


The expression of HER2 protein in cell lines was evaluated with antibody-binding capacity using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) for comparison with PID measurements to test for correlations with existing quantitative protein analysis methodologies. Various other analytic validation tests were also performed, including accuracy, precision, sensitivity, robustness and reproducibility. A methods comparison study investigated correlations between PID versus IHC and ISH in clinical samples. Lastly, we measured HER2 protein expression using PID in the pretreatment biopsies from 34 HER2-positive carcinomas that had undergone neoadjuvant trastuzumab-based chemotherapy.


In the analytic validation, PID HER2 measurements showed a strong linear correlation with FACS analysis in breast cell lines, and demonstrated significant correlations with all aspects of precision, sensitivity, robustness and reproducibility. PID also showed strong correlations with conventional HER2 testing methodologies (IHC and ISH). In the neoadjuvant study, patients with a pathologic complete response (pCR) had a significantly higher PID score compared with patients who did not achieve a pCR (p = 0.011), and was significantly correlated to residual cancer burden (RCB) class (p = 0.026, R2 = 0.9975).


Analytic testing of PID showed that it may be a viable testing methodology that could offer advantages over other experimental or conventional biomarker diagnostic methodologies. Our data also suggests that PID quantitation of HER2 protein may offer an improvement over conventional HER2 testing in the selection of patients who will be the most likely to benefit from HER2-targeted therapy. Further studies with a larger cohort are warranted.
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