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Cancer. 2005 Feb 1;103(3):630-6.

Protein expression and gene amplification of epidermal growth factor receptor in thymomas.

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Division of Anatomic Pathology, Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Presbyterian University Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.



Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) overexpression and amplification are important prognostic factors in many solid tumors and anti-EGFR antibody-based therapy is now available as a promising therapeutic modality. There is little information in the literature regarding the biologic role of EGFR in thymomas that are characterized by variable clinical presentations, histologic heterogeneity, and unpredictable behavior.


Protein expression and gene amplification of EGFR were investigated in 32 thymomas (9 World Health Organization [WHO] type A, 5 type AB, 7 type B2, 7 type B3, 4 type C) using immunohistochemistry and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). FISH analysis included assessment of the average number of copies of the EGFR gene per cell, the average ratio of the EGFR gene to chromosome 7 copy numbers, and ploidy.


The results of FISH analysis showed statistically significant correlation with WHO histologic type, invasion, advanced clinical stage, but not with tumor size and outcome. Thymomas associated with myasthenia gravis more frequently showed hyperploidy when compared with sporadic tumors, but there was no difference in EGFR gene amplification. EGFR protein expression assessed by immunohistochemistry did not correlate with any studied clinicopathologic variables. There was poor correlation between the protein expression and gene amplification, only 7 of 23 specimens (30%).


The potential role of EGFR in the pathogenesis of advanced-stage thymomas indicated that evolving anti-EGFR antibody therapy may be considered as a treatment option.

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