Alteration of topoisomerase II-alpha gene in human breast cancer: Association with responsiveness to anthracycline-based chemotherapy

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Journal of Clinical Oncology


Purpose: Approximately 35% of HER2-amplified breast cancers have coamplification of the topoisomerase II-alpha (TOP2A) gene encoding an enzyme that is a major target of anthracyclines. This study was designed to evaluate whether TOP2A gene alterations may predict incremental responsiveness to anthracyclines in some breast cancers. Methods: A total of 4,943 breast cancers were analyzed for alterations in TOP2A and HER2. Primary tumor tissues from patients with metastatic breast cancer treated in a trial of chemotherapy plus/minus trastuzumab were studied for amplification/deletion of TOP2A and HER2 as a test set followed by evaluation of malignancies from two separate, large trials for changes in these same genes as a validation set. Association between these alterations and clinical outcomes was determined. Results: Test set cases containing HER2 amplification treated with doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide (AC) plus trastuzumab, demonstrated longer progression-free survival compared to those treated with AC alone (P = .0002). However, patients treated with AC alone whose tumors contain HER2/TOP2A coamplification experienced a similar improvement in survival (P = .004). Conversely, for patients treated with paclitaxel, HER2/TOP2A coamplification was not associated with improved outcomes. These observations were confirmed in a larger validation set, where HER2/TOP2A coamplification was again associated with longer survival when only anthracycline-containing chemotherapy was used for treatment compared with outcome in HER2-positive cancers lacking TOP2A coamplification. Conclusion: In a study involving nearly 5,000 breast malignancies, both test set and validation set demonstrate that TOP2A coamplification, not HER2 amplification, is the clinically useful predictive marker of an incremental response to anthracycline-based chemotherapy. Absence of HER2/TOP2A coamplification may indicate a more restricted efficacy advantage for breast cancers than previously thought. © 2010 by American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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