HER2 loss in HER2-positive gastric or gastroesophageal cancer after trastuzumab therapy: Implication for further clinical research

F. Pietrantonio, M. Caporale, Federica Morano, M. Scartozzi, Annunziata Gloghini, F. De Vita, E. Giommoni, L. Fornaro, G. Aprile, D. Melisi, R. Berenato, A. Mennitto, C. C. Volpi, M. M. Laterza, V. Pusceddu, L. Antonuzzo, E. Vasile, E. Ongaro, F. Simionato, F. de BraudV. Torri, M. Di Bartolomeo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mechanisms of acquired resistance to trastuzumab-based treatment in gastric cancer are largely unknown. In this study, we analyzed 22 pairs of tumor samples taken at baseline and post-progression in patients receiving chemotherapy and trastuzumab for advanced HER2-positive [immunohistochemistry (IHC) 3+ or 2+ with in-situ hybridization (ISH) amplification] gastric or gastroesophageal cancers. Strict clinical criteria for defining acquired trastuzumab resistance were adopted. Loss of HER2 positivity and loss of HER2 over-expression were defined as post-trastuzumab IHC score <3+ and absence of ISH amplification, and IHC “downscoring” from 2+/3+ to 0/1+, respectively. HER2 IHC was always performed, while ISH was missing in 3 post-progression samples. Patients with initial HER2 IHC score 3+ and 2+ were 14 (64%) and 8 (36%), respectively. Loss of HER2 positivity and HER2 over-expression was observed in 32 and 32% samples, respectively. The chance of HER2 loss was not associated with any of the baseline clinicopathological variables. The only exception was in patients with initial IHC score 2+ versus 3+, for both endpoints of HER2 positivity (80 vs. 14%; p = 0.008) and HER2 over-expression (63 vs. 14%; p = 0.025). As already shown in breast cancer, loss of HER2 may be observed also in gastric cancers patients treated with trastuzumab-based chemotherapy in the clinical practice. This phenomenon may be one of the biological reasons explaining the failure of anti-HER2 second-line strategies in initially HER2-positive disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2859-2864
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 15 2016


  • gastric cancer
  • HER2
  • HER2 loss
  • resistance
  • trastuzumab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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