Her-2 overexpression increases the metastatic outgrowth of breast cancer cells in the brain

Diane Palmieri, Julie L. Bronder, Jeanne M. Herring, Toshiyuki Yoneda, Robert J. Weil, Andreas M. Stark, Raffael Kurek, Eleazar Vega-Valle, Lionel Feigenbaum, Douglas Halverson, Alexander O. Vortmeyer, Seth M. Steinberg, Kenneth Aldape, Patricia S. Steeg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

217 Scopus citations


Retrospective studies of breast cancer patients suggest that primary tumor Her-2 overexpression or trastuzumab therapy is associated with a devastating complication: the development of central nervous system (brain) metastases. Herein, we present Her-2 expression trends from resected human brain metastases and data from an experimental brain metastasis assay, both indicative of a functional contribution of Her-2 to brain metastatic colonization. Of 124 archival resected brain metastases from breast cancer patients, 36.2% overexpressed Her-2, indicating an enrichment in the frequency of tumor Her-2 overexpression at this metastatic site. Using quantitative real-time PCR of laser capture microdissected epithelial cells, Her-2 and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mRNA levels in a cohort of 12 frozen brain metastases were increased up to 5- and 9-fold, respectively, over those of Her-2-amplified primary tumors. Co-overexpression of Her-2 and EGFR was also observed in a subset of brain metastases. We then tested the hypothesis that overexpression of Her-2 increases the colonization of breast cancer cells in the brain in vivo. A subclone of MDA-MB-231 human breast carcinoma cells that selectively metastasizes to brain (231-BR) overexpressed EGFR; 231-BR cells were transfected with low (4- to 8-fold) or high (22- to 28-fold) levels of Her-2. In vivo, in a model of brain metastasis, low or high Her-2-overexpressing 231-BR clones produced comparable numbers of micrometastases in the brain as control transfectants; however, the Her-2 transfectants yielded 3-fold greater large metastases (>50 μm2; P < 0.001). Our data indicate that Her-2 overexpression increases the outgrowth of metastatic tumor cells in the brain in this model system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4190-4198
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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