Open Access Research article

HER 2/neu protein expression in colorectal cancer

B Schuell1, T Gruenberger2*, W Scheithauer1, Ch Zielinski1 and F Wrba3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine I, Division of Clinical Oncology, University Hospital, Vienna, Austria

2 Department of Surgery, University Hospital, Vienna, Austria

3 Department of Pathology, University Hospital, Vienna, Austria

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:123  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-123

Published: 8 May 2006



Conflicting data exist about the prevalence of HER-2/neu overexpression in colorectal cancer ranging from 0 to 83 %. In our study we tried to clarify the extent of expression and its relationship to clinicopathological parameters.


This study involved 77 specimens of malignant colorectal cancer lesions of surgically resected patients. HER-2/neu immunohistochemistry was performed using the Hercep-Test Kit.


Out of 77 specimens, 56 were Her-2/neu negative (70%), 20 (26%) showed a barely immunostaining (1+), only 1 (1%) was moderately (2+) and 2 (3%) were strongly positive (3+). Her-2/neu staining (moderately and strongly positive) was only detected in primary tumours of patients with confirmed metastases. No relationship was found between membranous HER-2 expression and patients' gender or differentiation. The median survival time of patients with positive HER-2/neu immunostaining was 21 versus 39 months in patients without HER-2/neu expression (p = 0.088).


The c-erbB protein expression was observed in colorectal cancer but rarely in the therapeutic range (2+ and 3+). There was no significant association with tumour grade, gender, localization of the primary tumour or survival. These data indicate that c-erbB-2 is unlikely to play a major role in the therapeutic management of colorectal cancer.