Evaluation of HER2 expression in urothelial carcinoma cells asa biomarker for circulating tumor cells
Alessandro Nini, Michèle Janine Hoffmann, Rita LamPignano, Robert große Siemer, Guus van Dalum, Tibor Szarvas, Cristina Lopez Cotarelo, Wolfgang Arthur Schulz, Dieter Niederacher, Hans Neubauer, Nikolas Hendrik Stoecklein, Günter Niegisch
Detection of circulating tumor cells (CTC) by techniques based on epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) is suboptimal in urothelial carcinoma (UC). As HER2 is thought to be broadly expressed in UC, we explored its utility for CTC detection.
HER2 and EpCAM expression was analyzed in 18 UC cell lines (UCCs) by qRT‐PCR, western blot and fluorescence‐activated cell scanning (FACS) and compared to the strongly HER2‐expressing breast cancer cell line SKBR3 and other controls. HER2 expression in UC patient tissues was measured by qRT PCR and correlated with data on survival and risk for metastasis. UCCs with high EpCAM and variable HER2 expression were used for spike‐in experiments in the CellSearch system. Twenty‐one blood samples from 13 metastatic UC patients were analyzed for HER2‐positive CTCs with CellSearch.
HER2 mRNA and protein were broadly expressed in UCC, with some heterogeneity, but at least 10‐fold lower than in the HER‐2+ SKBR3 cells. Variations were unrelated to cellular phenotype or clinicopathological characteristics. EpCAM expression was essentially restricted to UCCs with epitheloid phenotypes. Heterogeneity of EpCAM and HER2 expression was observed also in spike‐in experiments. The 7 of 21 blood samples from 6 of 13 patients were enumerated as CTC positive via EpCAM, but only one sample stained weakly positive (1+) for HER2.
Detection rate of CTCs by EpCAM in UC is poor, even in metastatic patients. Because of its widespread expression, particularly in patients with high risk of metastasis, detection of HER2 could improve identification of UC CTCs, which is why combined detection using antibodies for EpCAM and HER2 may be beneficial.