, Volume 136, Issue 7, pp 1029-1037
Date: 06 Jan 2010

Topoisomerase IIα expression rather than gene amplification predicts responsiveness of adjuvant anthracycline-based chemotherapy in women with primary breast cancer

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Adjuvant anthracycline-based chemotherapy (AbCTX) is a standard treatment for patients with primary breast cancer. Its main target is topoisomerase IIα (TopIIa), a nuclear protein which is important for DNA replication and mitosis. We propose that the overexpression of the TopIIa protein or amplification of the TopIIa gene may be useful in predicting increased responsiveness towards AbCTX.


Tumor tissues of 118 patients who received adjuvant AbCTX were examined by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) for TopIIa and HER2. For IHC, the primary antibodies 485 (Dako) and NCL-TOPOIIA (Novocastra) were used. FISH analysis was performed with the SPEC HER2/CEP 17 Dual Color Probe (Zytovision) and LSI TOP 2A Spectrum Orange/CEP 17 Spectrum Green probe (Abbott). TopIIa IHC was evaluated by the immunoreactive score (IRS). FISH amplification was stated at an HER2–TopIIa/CEP 17 ratio ≥2, deletion of TopIIa at a ratio <0.8.


The median age of the patient population was 50 years (range 23–77), 76 (64%) had tumors >2 cm in size, 98 (85%) were nodal positive, and 72 (66%) estrogen-receptor positive. Chemotherapy regimes consisted of epirubicin–cyclophosphamide (EC 40 pts), EC-CMF (18 pts), FAC/FEC (33 pts), anthracycline–taxane combinations (23 pts) and others (4 pts). After IHC, it was found that 19% of the tumors were positive for HER2 (3+) and the median IRS for TopIIa staining was 2 (49% positive); 28 (24%) tumors showed HER2 amplification, therefrom 20/22 (91%) within the HER2 3+ group. TopIIa gene was amplified in 17 cases (16%) and deletion was seen in 6 (5%) tumors. Of all cases with HER2 gene amplification, 14 (50%) cases of TopIIa co-amplification and one case of deletion were seen. Looking at histological parameters, TopIIa IHC correlated with nodal status (P = 0.018) and high grading (G3) (P = 0.047). After a median follow-up of 42 months (range 1–242), a significant prognostic factor for local recurrence was HER2 positivity (IHC P = 0.013 and FISH P = 0.023). Thirty-two patients developed metastasis (27%), which was correlated with HER2 FISH positivity (P = 0.024) and, as a trend, Top IIa IHC negativity (P = 0.094); 25 (21%) patients died from the disease. Negative prognostic parameters were the lack of estrogen-receptor expression (P = 0.008), lymphangiosis (P = 0.02), and TopIIa IHC negativity (P = 0.03).


In this cohort of patients, HER2 positivity indicated higher rates of local and distant recurrence. In contrast, TopIIa IHC positivity predicted lower risk of metastases and death, thus being a positive-predictive factor for the responsiveness to AbCTX. TopIIa gene amplification did not add predictive information. Therefore, we conclude that TopIIa protein expression might rather be the target of anthracyclines independent from gene copy number.