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Breast Cancer Res. 2008;10(3):R49. doi: 10.1186/bcr2103. Epub 2008 Jun 3.

Expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and the phosphorylated EGFR in invasive breast carcinomas.

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  • 1First Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Mikras Asias, Athens, 11527, Greece.



Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is involved in regulating cell growth in breast carcinomas. Its activated form, phosphorylated EGFR (pEGFR), is correlated with poor prognosis in lung cancer, but it has not yet been fully investigated in breast cancer. The aim of this study was to investigate the expressions of EGFR and pEGFR and their correlation with overall and disease-free survival, clinicopathological parameters and biological markers of invasion and angiogenesis (phosphorylated Akt [pAkt], urokinase plasminogen activator receptor [uPAR], matrix metalloproteinase [MMP]-14, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor [VEGFR]-1/Flt-1).


A three-step immunohistochemical method was applied to paraffin-embedded sections from 154 patients with invasive breast carcinoma in order to detect expressions of the proteins EGFR, pEGFR, oestrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, c-erbB-2, pAkt, VEGFR-1/Flt-1, MMP-14 and uPAR. The results were evaluated statistically using the chi2 test. Overall and disease-free survival distribution curves were assessed using the Kaplan-Meier test and log-rank statistics, followed by Cox proportional hazards regression model.


EGFR and pEGFR proteins were immunodetected in the membrane of the malignant cells (11.3% and 35.7%, respectively). EGFR expression was positively correlated with nuclear grade (P = 0.001) and negatively correlated with the hormonal receptor oestrogen receptor (P = 0.005). pEGFR was positively related to the Akt pathway (P = 0.008) and appeared to participate in invasion and metastasis (uPAR, P = 0.049; MMP-14, P = 0.025; VEGFR-1/Flt-1, P = 0.016). Univariate analysis showed that the EGFR/pEGFR phenotype was associated with poor overall survival (P = 0.019), a finding further supported by multivariate analysis (P = 0.013).


These data provide evidence that pEGFR expression is related to angiogenesis (via VEGFR-1/Flt-1, MMP-14 and pAkt pathways) and invasiveness (via uPAR, MMP-14 and pAkt pathways) and that the EGFR/pEGFR phenotype is associated with poor patient survival in invasive breast cancer.

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