Microfluidic processor allows rapid HER2 immunohistochemistry of breast carcinomas and significantly reduces ambiguous (2+) read-outs
Biomarker analysis is playing an essential role in cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and prediction. Quantitative assessment of immunohistochemical biomarker expression on tumor tissues is of clinical relevance when deciding targeted treatments for cancer patients. Here, we report a microfluidic tissue processor that permits accurate quantification of the expression of biomarkers on tissue sections, enabled by the ultra-rapid and uniform fluidic exchange of the device. An important clinical biomarker for invasive breast cancer is human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 [(HER2), also known as neu], a transmembrane tyrosine kinase that connotes adverse prognostic information for the patients concerned and serves as a target for personalized treatment using the humanized antibody trastuzumab. Unfortunately, when using state-of-the-art methods, the intensity of an immunohistochemical signal is not proportional to the extent of biomarker expression, causing ambiguous outcomes. Using our device, we performed tests on 76 invasive breast carcinoma cases expressing various levels of HER2. We eliminated more than 90% of the ambiguous results (n = 27), correctly assigning cases to the amplification status as assessed by in situ hybridization controls, whereas the concordance for HER2-negative (n = 31) and -positive (n = 18) cases was 100%. Our results demonstrate the clinical potential of microfluidics for accurate biomarker expression analysis. We anticipate our technique will be a diagnostic tool that will provide better and more reliable data, onto which future treatment regimes can be based.