Previous studies have suggested that overexpression of HER-2/neu oncogene occurs in 15–40% of breast cancers and that overexpression is associated with poor prognosis. In the present report, we have used an immunohistochemical technique involving a monoclonal antibody specifically reactive with the external domain of HER-2/neu to study expression of HER-2/neu in frozen sections of normal ovary and advanced epithelial ovarian cancer. The intensity of staining for HER-2neu was always moderate or less (0–2+) in normal ovarian epithelium. Among 73 ovarian cancers, 50 (68%) had staining similar to that for normal ovarian epithelium (0–2+) while 23 (32%) stained heavily (3+). Survival of the 23 patients with high HER-2/neu expression (median, 15.7 months) was significantly worse (P = 0.001) than that of the 50 patients (median, 32.8 months) with normal HER-2/neu expression. In addition, patients whose tumors had high HER-2/neu expression were significantly less likely to have a complete response to primary therapy (P < 0.05) or have a negative second-look laparotomy when serum CA 125 levels were normal preoperatively (P < 0.05). These findings suggest that HER-2/neu deserves further evaluation as a prognostic marker in epithelial ovarian cancer.
Supported in part by Grant 5R01-CA39930 from the National Cancer Institute.