Immunohistochemical assay for epidermal growth factor receptor on paraffin-embedded sections: validation against ligand-binding assay and clinical relevance in breast cancer.
Newby JC., A'Hern RP., Leek RD., Smith IE., Harris AL., Dowsett M.
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.