3Department of Surgery, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran
4Division of Oncology, Postgraduate Medical School, University of Surrey, UK, and
5Department of OB & GYN, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran
Background: A soluble form of HER-2/neu extracellular domain (sHER-2) is reported to be released in the sera of metastatic breast cancer patients. Objective: To measure the level of sHER-2 in sera of 115 breast cancer patients. Methods: Serial samples of 27 patients with metastasis, 18 non-metastatic patients, 15 patients in stage 0/I and 14 patients with accompanying benign breast disease were also included in this study. Results: No significant difference was observed between sHER- 2 level in the pre-operative sera of breast cancer patients and that of healthy individuals. Only 8 out of 27 patients whom later developed metastasis showed elevated levels of sHER-2 in their first serum sample. However, a trend of increase in the level of sHER-2 was observed in 14 (51.8%) of 27 metastatic sera before clinical diagnosis of the metastasis. A significant association between sHER-2 positive status and vascular invasion of the tumor was observed (P = 0.02). In addition, significant correlation of sHER-2 level with CEA (highest r = 0.74) and CA 15.3 (highest r = 0.74) tumor marker levels in the serial sera were observed. The mean time from sHER-2 positivity to tumor metastasis was calculated to be 98 days (range = 29-174). Conclusion: Our results indicate that a relatively high percentage of Iranian patients with breast cancer show an elevated level of sHER-2 in their sera before clinical diagnosis of the tumor metastasis. Therefore, measuring the level of this oncoprotein, not only helps physicians in monitoring the patients during HERCEPTINTM therapy, but also can be helpful in choosing more aggressive treatments at the early satges of tumor metastasis.