ARTICLE ABSTRACTAbout 50% of breast cancers are defined as HER2-low and may benefit from HER2-directed antibody–drug conjugates. While tissue sequencing has evaluated potential differences in genomic profiles for patients with HER2-low breast cancer, genetic alterations in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) have not been well described.
We retrospectively analyzed 749 patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and ctDNA evaluation by Guardant360 from three academic medical centers. Tumors were classified as HER2-low, HER2-0 (IHC 0) or HER2-positive. Single-nucleotide variants, copy-number variants, and oncogenic pathways were compared across the spectrum of HER2 expression. Overall survival (OS) was evaluated by HER2 status and according to oncogenic pathways.
Patients with HER2-low had higher rates of PIK3CA mutations [relative risk ratio (RRR), 1.57; P = 0.024] compared with HER2-0 MBC. There were no differences in ERBB2 alterations or oncogenic pathways between HER2-low and HER2-0 MBC. Patients with HER2-positive MBC had more ERBB2 alterations (RRR, 12.43; P = 0.002 for amplification; RRR, 3.22; P = 0.047 for mutations, in the hormone receptor–positive cohort), fewer ERS1 mutations (RRR, 0.458; P = 0.029), and fewer ER pathway alterations (RRR, 0.321; P < 0.001). There was no difference in OS for HER2-low and HER2-0 MBC [HR, 1.01; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.79–1.29], while OS was improved in HER2-positive MBC (HR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.21–0.49; P < 0.001).
We observed a higher rate of PIK3CA mutations, but no significant difference in ERBB2 alterations, oncogenic pathways, or prognosis, between patients with HER2-low and HER2-0 MBC. If validated, our findings support the conclusion that HER2-low MBC does not represent a unique biological subtype.