Clinicopathologic features of unexpectedly HER2 positive breast carcinomas: An institutional experience

Carissa LaBoy*, Kalliopi P. Siziopikou, Lauren Rosen, Luis Z. Blanco, Jennifer L. Pincus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) overexpression occurs in 15–20 % of all breast carcinomas. These tumors are usually high-grade which often correlates with reduced overall survival and increased rates of recurrence. In a retrospective review, we identified 19 cases of unexpectedly HER2 positive (by immunohistochemistry and/or fluorescence in-situ hybridization) invasive breast carcinomas on core needle biopsies from a registry at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. These cases included low-grade tumors, invasive lobular carcinomas, classic type, and invasive carcinomas with special subtype features. Twelve of the tumors were histologic grade 1 and 7 were histologic grade 2. One of the grade 1 tumors had tubular features (8 %), 1 had cribriform features (8 %), 2 had mucinous features (17 %), 2 were invasive lobular carcinomas, classic type (17 %), and the rest were invasive carcinoma, no special type (50 %). The histologic grade 2 tumors included 5 invasive lobular carcinomas, classic type (71 %) and 2 invasive ductal carcinomas with mucinous features (29 %). By immunohistochemistry, 13 (65 %) were HER2 score 3+, 7 were score 2+ (35 %), and reflex fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH) testing showed amplification in 6 cases, with 1 equivocal case amplified on excision. Despite the HER2 positive status in the selected cases, no unique morphologic features that would indicate aggressive behavior were identified. In clinical follow up, two patients were found to have recurrences, five had lymph node metastasis, and one had distant metastasis. None of the patients with recurrent disease were treated with trastuzumab, despite their positive HER2 results. These findings support that our population of HER2 positive carcinomas showed a similar rate of lymph node metastases and recurrence as poorly-differentiated tumors, supporting HER2 positivity as a poor prognostic indicator, irrespective of morphologic features. We recommend continuing to test all breast cancers, regardless of grade or special subtype features, to provide the most comprehensive treatment and prognostic information for both clinicians and patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number153441
JournalPathology Research and Practice
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Aggressive behavior
  • Breast carcinoma
  • HER2 overexpression
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Clinicopathologic features of unexpectedly HER2 positive breast carcinomas: An institutional experience'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this