Various monoclonal antibodies reactive with protooncogene products or tumor-associated antigens have been utilized to investigate breast carcinoma biology or antigen expression with potential prognostic relevance. Murine monoclonal antibody TA1, generated by immunization of BALB/c mice with whole c-erbB-2 (neu) transformed NIH/3T3 cells, recognizes the extracellular domain of the c-erbB-2 protein and binds a Mr 185,000 protein by immunoprecipitation. Using avidin-biotin-peroxidase techniques and monoclonal antibody TA1, 313 archival primary adenocarcinomas of the breast were evaluated for c-erbB-2 overexpression; 290 of these were used for multiparametric statistical analysis. Historical, clinical (age, laterality), histological (nuclear grade, tumor size, lymph node status, lymphatic or blood invasion), and hormone receptor data as well as clinical outcome (minimal follow-up, 6 years; median follow-up, 8.5 years) were compared to TA1 staining. For these 290 patients Cox regression multivariate analysis showed the strongest correlation between lymph node status or estrogen receptor status and overall survival (P = 0.0001 and 0.049, respectively). TA1 staining did not significantly correlate with survival (P = 0.395). However, univariate analysis of certain patient subpopulations showed a significant correlation if the examined tumors were subdivided into negative or focally reactive and those with ⩾40% cellular reactivity. For T3, T4 patients, strong TA1 immunoreactivity correlated with a shortened disease-free survival (log rank P = 0.0018; Wilcoxon p = 0.0078) and overall survival (log rank P = 0.0002; Wilcoxon P = 0.0013). For these patients the overall survival at 6 years was markedly different between the strongly reactive tumors (0%) and the negative to weakly reactive tumors (55%). In lymph node-positive patients a trend between high TA1 reactivity and a worse overall survival was also noted (log rank P = 0.128; Wilcoxon P = 0.054), with a 6-year survival of 42% in the strongly reactive tumors (n = 16) and 65% in the negative to weakly reactive carcinomas (n = 105). No correlation between TA1 immunoreactivity and other historical, clinical, and histological features were noted. c-erbB-2 overexpression as measured by immunohistochemical techniques, therefore, may have clinical significance in certain patient subpopulations.

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