Answer to Question #137507 in Molecular Biology for Elena

Question #137507

A 45 year-old woman complaining of breast pain was diagnosed with having HER2-positive breast cancer. The patient underwent lumpectomy followed by a period of chemotherapy including adjuvant treatment. Over the course of their treatment, the patient developed a urinary tract infection that required antimicrobial therapy, which initially consisted of atrimethoprim / sulfametoxazole combination drug. However, the patient during the course of her therapy suffered multiple recurrent infections and was, consequently, enrolled in a clinical trial to test the efficacy of a new mannoside anti-infective agent. Question: With reference to signaling pathways, discuss the pathogenesis of HER2-positive breast cancer. In your answer, include discussion on the differential diagnosis of this condition.

Expert's answer

Approximately 25% of breast cancer cases, the cancer cells have an excess of the HER2 protein. This is caused by a mutation in the HER2 -human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 gene. When mutation of HER2 gene occurs, it causes cells in the breast to grow and divide at an uncontrolled pace, resulting to growth of a tumor.

Diagnosis of HER2-positive breast cancer:

  • The Inform Dual ISH test utilizes stains that color HER2 genes in a tissue sample so they can be counted under a microscope.
  • The IHC test utilizes certain antibodies that identify the HER2 protein in a sample of breast cancer tissue.
  • The  FISH test utilizes fluorescent pieces of DNA that stick to the HER2 gene in cells, which are then counted under a microscope.

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