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Keywords:

  • chromogenic in situ hybridization;
  • HER-2;
  • fluorescence in situ hybridization;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • oestrogen receptor;
  • progesterone receptor

Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease and there is a continual drive to identify markers that will aid in predicting prognosis and response to therapy. To date, relatively few markers have established prognostic power. Oestrogen receptor (ER) is probably the most powerful predictive marker in breast cancer management, both in determining prognosis and in predicting response to hormone therapies. Progesterone receptor (PR) is also a widely used marker, although its value is less well established. HER-2 status has also become a routine prognostic and predictive factor in breast cancer. Given the importance of these biological markers in patient management, it is essential that assays are robust and quality controlled, and that interpretation is standardized. Furthermore, it is important to be aware of the limitations in their predictive power, and how this may be refined through addition of further biological markers. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of the established role of ER, PR and HER-2 in patient management, the current standards for assessing these markers, as well as highlighting the controversies that still surround their use and methods of assessment.