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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor and K-RAS status in two cohorts of squamous cell carcinomas

Nancy Van Damme1*, Philippe Deron2, Nadine Van Roy3, Pieter Demetter4, Alain Bols5, Jo Van Dorpe6, Filip Baert7, Jean-Luc Van Laethem8, Franki Speleman3, Patrick Pauwels9 and Marc Peeters110

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Hepato-Gastroenterology, Digestive Oncology Unit, Ghent University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185 1K12IE, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

2 Department of Head and Neck Surgery, Ghent University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

3 Centre for Medical Genetics, Ghent University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

4 Department of Pathology, Université libre de Bruxelles, Route de Lennik 808, 1070 Brussels, Belgium

5 Department of Oncology, AZ Sint-Jan Brugge, Ruddershove 10, 8000 Bruges, Belgium

6 Department of Pathology, Heilig Hart Ziekenhuis Roeselare, Wilgenstraat 2, 8800 Roeselare, Belgium

7 Department of Gastroenterology, Heilig Hart Ziekenhuis Roeselare, Wilgenstraat 2, 8800 Roeselare, Belgium

8 Department of Gastroenterology, Université libre de Bruxelles, Route de Lennik 808, 1070 Brussels, Belgium

9 Department of Pathology, Ghent University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

10 MP is a Senior Clinical Investigator Research Foundation - Flanders

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:189  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-189

Published: 11 May 2010

Abstract

Background

With the availability of effective anti-EGFR therapies for various solid malignancies, such as non-cell small lung cancer, colorectal cancer and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, the knowledge of EGFR and K-RAS status becomes clinically important. The aim of this study was to analyse EGFR expression, EGFR gene copy number and EGFR and K-RAS mutations in two cohorts of squamous cell carcinomas, specifically anal canal and tonsil carcinomas.

Methods

Formalin fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues from anal and tonsil carcinoma were used. EGFR protein expression and EGFR gene copy number were analysed by means of immunohistochemistry and fluorescence in situ hybridisation. The somatic status of the EGFR gene was investigated by PCR using primers specific for exons 18 through 21. For the K-RAS gene, PCR was performed using exon 2 specific primers.

Results

EGFR immunoreactivity was present in 36/43 (83.7%) of anal canal and in 20/24 (83.3%) of tonsil squamous cell carcinomas. EGFR amplification was absent in anal canal tumours (0/23), but could be identified in 4 of 24 tonsil tumours.

From 38 anal canal specimens, 26 specimens were successfully analysed for exon 18, 30 for exon 19, 34 for exon 20 and 30 for exon 21. No EGFR mutations were found in the investigated samples. Thirty samples were sequenced for K-RAS exon 2 and no mutation was identified. From 24 tonsil specimens, 22 were successfully analysed for exon 18 and all 24 specimens for exon 19, 20 and 21. No EGFR mutations were found. Twenty-two samples were sequenced for K-RAS exon 2 and one mutation c.53C > A was identified.

Conclusion

EGFR mutations were absent from squamous cell carcinoma of the anus and tonsils, but EGFR protein expression was detected in the majority of the cases. EGFR amplification was seen in tonsil but not in anal canal carcinomas. In our investigated panel, only one mutation in the K-RAS gene of a tonsil squamous cell carcinoma was identified. This indicates that EGFR and K-RAS mutation analysis is not useful as a screening test for sensitivity to anti-EGFR therapy in anal canal and tonsil squamous cell carcinoma.