Patterns of HER2 Gene Amplification and Response to Anti-HER2 Therapies

>A chromosomal region that includes the gene encoding HER2, a receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK), is amplified in 20% of breast cancers. Although these tumors tend to respond to drugs directed against HER2, they frequently become resistant and resume their malignant progression. Gene amplification in double minutes (DMs), which are extrachromosomal entities whose number can be dynamically regulated, has been suggested to facilitate the acquisition of resistance to therapies targeting RTKs. Here we show that ~30% of HER2-positive tumors show amplification in DMs. However, these tumors respond to trastuzumab in a similar fashion than those with amplification of the HER2 gene within chromosomes. Furthermore, in different models of resistance to anti-HER2 therapies, the number of DMs containing HER2 is maintained, even when the acquisition of resistance is concomitant with loss of HER2 protein expression. Thus, both clinical and preclinical data show that, despite expectations, loss of HER2 protein expression due to loss of DMs containing HER2 is not a likely mechanism of resistance to anti-HER2 therapies.

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