Preselection of EGFR mutations in non-small-cell lung cancer patients by immunohistochemistry: comparison with DNA-sequencing, EGFR wild-type expression, gene copy number gain and clinicopathological data

Vol. 58 No. 4, 2017


Rania Gaber, Iris Watermann, Christian Kugler, Ekkehard Vollmer, Sven Perner, Martin Reck, Torsten Goldmann

Targeting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) having EGFR mutations is associated with an improved overall survival. The aim of this study is to verify, if EGFR mutations detected by immunohistochemistry (IHC) is a convincing way to preselect patients for DNA-sequencing and to figure out, the statistical association between EGFR mutation, wild-type EGFR overexpression, gene copy number gain, which are the main factors inducing EGFR tumorigenic activity and the clinicopathological data. Two hundred sixteen tumor tissue samples of primarily chemotherapeutic naïve NSCLC patients were analyzed for EGFR mutations E746-A750del and L858R and correlated with DNA-sequencing. Two hundred six of which were assessed by IHC, using 6B6 and 43B2 specific antibodies followed by DNA-sequencing of positive cases and 10 already genotyped tumor tissues were also included to investigate debugging accuracy of IHC. In addition, EGFR wild-type overexpression was IHC evaluated and EGFR gene copy number determination was performed by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Forty-one/206 (19.9%) cases were positive for mutated EGFR by IHC. Eight of them had EGFR mutations of exons 18-21 by DNA-sequencing. Hit rate of 10 already genotyped NSCLC mutated cases was 90% by IHC. Positive association was found between EGFR mutations determined by IHC and both EGFR overexpression and increased gene copy number (p=0.002 and p<0.001, respectively). Additionally, positive association was detected between EGFR mutations, high tumor grade and clinical stage (p<0.001). IHC staining with mutation specific antibodies was demonstrated as a possible useful screening test to preselect patients for DNA-sequencing.

Corresponding author: Torsten Goldmann, Professor, Dr. rer. nat., Principal Investigator; e-mail:

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