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. Cancer 2008. © 2008 American Cancer Society.