Her-2/neu Testing

Other names: Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor; C-erbB-2

Her-2/neu is an oncogene, which is a type of gene that can contribute to certain types of cancer. Normal cells have two copies of the Her-2/neu gene and low levels of Her-2 protein are produced on the surface of the cells. In some cases of breast (around 20-30%) and ovarian cancers, there is excessive production of the Her-2/neu gene and too much protein is produced; if this is the case, tumours tend to grow more rapidly and aggressively and are more resistant to therapy.

When is the test used?

The test may be used to determine the severity of a patient’s condition; tumours that are associated with the Her-2/neu gene tend to be more aggressive and the outlook is generally not as positive. The results of the test can be used to determine the most effective treatment pathway.

Sometimes the test can be used to monitor the efficacy of cancer therapy.

The test is usually ordered to monitor treatment; it is not used as a diagnostic tool.

How is the test done?

The test is generally done by analysing a sample of breast tissue; however a blood sample may also be collected and analysed. The sample is collected by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm; the blood is then drawn out and collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected, it will be bottled, labelled with the patient’s name and sent away to the laboratory for testing.

What do the test results mean?

If the test result is positive, this indicates that too much Her-2/neu protein is being produced; if the test for the gene is positive as well, this indicates that the patient is likely to have an aggressive tumour.

Specific Blood Tests

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