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Lung Cancer. 2012 Sep;77(3):515-21. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2012.05.108. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

HER family receptor and ligand status in thymic carcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Overexpression and gene amplification of the HER family of receptors and their ligands are important prognostic factors in many solid tumors and treatment targeting these molecules has recently become available. The role of this group of receptors has only rarely been described in thymic epithelial neoplasms and never before in a series of cases consisting exclusively of thymic carcinoma. Twenty-four primary squamous cell carcinomas of the thymus were examined for immunohistochemical expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), phosphorylated EGFR (pEGFR), HER2, phosphorylated HER2 (pHER2), HER3, phosphorylated HER3 (pHER3) and their ligands epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α), amphiregulin and epiregulin. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis for amplification of the EGFR and HER2 genes was performed including assessment of the copy numbers of EGFR and HER2 gene per cell and the ratio of EGFR and HER2 to centromere 7 and 17, respectively. Significant immunohistochemical expression was observed for EGFR (33.3%), pEGFR (33.3%), HER2 (58.3%), HER3 (45.8%), TGF-α (54.1%), amphiregulin (25.0%) and epiregulin (91.7%). A single case showed HER2 gene amplification by FISH. Increased EGFR and HER2 gene copy numbers were observed in 2 (8.4%) and 18 cases (75%), respectively. Eight cases (33.3%) showed an increased HER2:CEP17 ratio. The results of this study indicate that EGFR and HER2 amplification is a rare event in thymic carcinoma, however, protein expression for HER receptors as well as their ligands is a common finding indicating that targeted therapy directed against these molecules may be considered in the treatment of these tumors.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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