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Eur J Cancer. 2009 Jun;45(9):1700-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2009.02.027. Epub 2009 Mar 28.

EGFR protein overexpression and gene copy number increases in oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma.

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Department of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm S-17176, Sweden.


New promising therapeutic agents targeting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have been developed although clinical information concerning EGFR status in oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma (OTSCC) is limited. We investigated EGFR protein expression and gene copy numbers in 78 pretreatment OTSCC paraffin samples. EGFR protein expression was found in all 78 tumours, of which 72% showed an intense staining. Fifty-four percent of the tumours had high (> or =four gene copies) EGFR gene copy numbers. EGFR gene copy number was significantly associated with EGFR protein expression (P=0.002). Pretreatment EGFR staining intensity tended to be associated with non-pathological complete remission after preoperative radiotherapy for Stage II OTSCC. No correlation was found between EGFR status and survival. EGFR FISH results were significantly (P=0.003) higher in more advanced tumours (Stages II, III and IV) than in the tumours in Stage I. Non-smokers exhibited a significantly higher EGFR gene copy number and protein overexpression in Stages I and II OTSCC than smokers (P=0.001, P=0.009). In conclusion, EGFR was found to be overexpressed in all OTSCCs making this cancer type interesting for exploring new therapeutic agents targeting the EGFR receptor.

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