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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research