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Cancer. 2008 Jul 1;113(1):97-107. doi: 10.1002/cncr.23557.

Distinctive E-cadherin and epidermal growth factor receptor expression in metastatic and nonmetastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma: predictive and prognostic correlation.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.



The authors investigated whether coexpression and localization of E-cadherin (E-cad) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) had predictive and/or prognostic correlations with lymph node metastasis and/or survival in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).


Immunohistochemistry (IHC) of archival tissue was performed to measure expression of EGFR and E-cad in surgical specimens of SCCHN (n = 143) that included primary tumors (PTs) with positive lymph nodes (Tu+Met) and their paired lymph node metastases (LnMet), PTs with negative lymph nodes (Tu(-Met)), and benign tissue biopsies as normal controls. IHC staining was quantified as a weighted index and as the ratio of membrane to cytoplasmic staining. Correlative expression between EGFR and E-cad also was examined in SCCHN cell lines by immunoblotting and immunofluorescence analyses.


Three distinct expression patterns of EGFR and E-cad were observed. Membrane localization of E-cad was significantly lower in the Tu+Met group than in the Tu(-Met) group (P = .01) and was associated inversely with lymph node status (P = .009). Wilcoxon analysis of the combined markers demonstrated that expression and/or membrane localization of EGFR and E-cad were correlated with disease-free survival and overall survival in patients with SCCHN. The study of SCCHN cell lines demonstrated that cells with positive but low EGFR expression and with negative E-cad expression were relatively resistant to the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib.


The current study suggested that examining not only the expression but also the localization of EGFR and E-cad simultaneously may have clinical relevance in predicting lymph node metastasis, patient survival, and response to EGFR-targeted therapy in patients with SCCHN.

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