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J Breast Cancer. 2016 Dec;19(4):385-393. English. Original Article.
Lee C , Park S , Kim JH , Lim SM , Park HS , Kim SI , Park BW .
Department of Surgery, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
Frontier Research Institute of Convergence Sports Science, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.

PURPOSE: The present study aimed to examine the clinical implications of CD4, CD8, and FOXP3 expression on the prognosis of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer using a web-based database, and to compare the immunohistochemical expression of T-lymphocyte markers using primary and metastatic HER2-positive tumor tissues before and after HER2-targeted therapy. METHODS: Using the cBioPortal for Cancer Genomics and Kaplan-Meier plotter, the mRNA expression, association between T-lymphocyte markers, and survival in HER2-positive cancers were investigated according to various cutoff levels. Immunohistochemistry analysis was performed using paired primary and metastatic tissues of 29 HER2-positive tumors treated with systemic chemotherapy and HER2-directed therapy. RESULTS: HER2 mRNA was mutually exclusive of T-lymphocyte markers, and a significant correlation between T-cell markers was observed in the cBioPortal for Cancer Genomics. According to analysis of the Kaplan-Meier plotter, the impact of T-lymphocyte marker expression on survival was statistically insignificant in clinical HER2-positive tumors, irrespective of the cutoff levels. However, in the intrinsic HER2-positive subtype, the individual analyses of T-cell markers except for FOXP3 and combined analysis showed significantly favorable survival irrespective of cutoff points. Although the small clinical sample size made it difficult to show the statistical relevance of immunohistochemistry findings, good responses to neoadjuvant treatments might be associated with positive expression of combined T-lymphocyte markers, and approximately half of the samples showed discordance of combined markers between baseline and resistant tumors. CONCLUSION: T-lymphocyte markers could be favorable prognostic factors in HER2-positive breast cancers; however, a consensus on patient section criteria, detection methods, and cutoff value could not be reached. The resistance to HER2-directed therapy might involve different and personalized mechanisms, and further research is required to understand the association between immune function and HER2 expression and to overcome the resistance mechanisms to HER2-targeted therapies.

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