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Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has been the subject of much research since it was first described as a prognostic factor in breast cancer. The assay methods used and results obtained vary widely between studies. In this study 88 primary breast cancers were assayed for EGFR using a novel immunohistochemical assay performed on paraffin-embedded sections. The monoclonal antibody used was raised against purified, denatured EGFR, reacts with an epitope on the external domain and does not interfere with ligand binding. Twenty-two per cent of the tumours were EGFR positive using this assay. The results obtained were significantly correlated with those obtained by ligand-binding assay (r = 0.621, P = 0.011). The concordance rate was 82% (P < 0.001). The majority of discordant results could be explained by the presence of benign breast tissue and other non-malignant elements which could be seen to express EGFR on the immunohistochemical assay and were excluded from the score for this, but would be incorporated into ligand-binding assay results. The well-established inverse relationship between EGFR (as measured by this assay) and oestrogen receptor (ER) was seen (chi 2 = 24.9, P < 0.0001). In addition, in this exploratory study on a limited tumour set, EGFR was a significant adverse prognostic factor (on univariate but not multivariate analysis) for both relapse-free survival (P = 0.02) and overall survival (P = 0.03) when measured by this immunohistochemical assay, but was not significant when measured by ligand-binding assay.


Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





1237 - 1242


Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Breast, Breast Neoplasms, Epithelial Cells, Epithelium, ErbB Receptors, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Histological Techniques, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Lymphatic Metastasis, Middle Aged, Paraffin, Predictive Value of Tests, Prognosis, Radioligand Assay, Reproducibility of Results, Survival Analysis, Time Factors