Expression of epidermal growth factor receptor in squamous cell carcinomas of the anal canal is independent of gene amplification

Gustavo Alvarez, Arie Perry, Benjamin R. Tan, Hanlin L. Wang

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63 Scopus citations


Immunohistochemical detection of expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has been utilized to identify eligible patients with solid malignant tumors, including colorectal adenocarcinoma, for monoclonal antibody therapy (eg, cetuximab). The EGFR status in squamous cell carcinoma of the anal canal, an uncommon malignancy traditionally treated with chemoradiation, has not been well investigated. In this study, 38 primary squamous cell carcinomas of the anal canal were immunohistochemically examined for EGFR expression and analyzed by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) for EGFR gene copy numbers. The results showed a variable degree of EGFR expression in 21 (55%) tumors, among which 13 (62%) cases exhibited a 2+ to 3+ staining pattern according to the Dako EGFR phamDx interpretation guide. There were no significant differences among tumors stratified by stage, degree of keratinization, or tissue block storage times. FISH analysis showed that none of the 34 cases with interpretable results had EGFR gene amplification. Increased gene copy numbers due to polysomy 7 were seen in seven of 18 (39%) cases that expressed EGFR protein and four of 16 (25%) cases that did not (P=0.3876). Ten (56%) tumors with positive EGFR staining showed a balanced disomy 7 pattern and one case with monosomy 7 exhibited strong EGFR expression (3+). These results demonstrate that EGFR is overexpressed in more than one-half of the squamous cell carcinomas of the anal canal through mechanisms other than gene amplification. These observations may have important therapeutic implications since EGFR-based targeted therapies have shown promise for other malignant neoplasms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)942-949
Number of pages8
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 28 2006


  • Anal canal
  • EGFR
  • Fluorescence in situ hybridization
  • Gene amplification
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Squamous cell carcinoma


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