Expression of ERG protein, a prostate cancer specific marker, in high grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN): lack of utility to stratify cancer risks associated with HGPIN


Ming Zhou, Department of Pathology, New York University Langone Medical Center, 650 First Ave, TCH 461, New York, NY 10016, USA. e-mail:


Study Type – Diagnosis (cohort)

Level of Evidence 2b

What's known on the subject? and What does the study add?

High grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia is a pre-malignant lesion to prostate cancer and is associated with 20%–25% risk of prostate cancer in subsequent repeat biopsies. ERG is a highly prostate-cancer-specific marker.

Expression of ERG is rare in isolated high grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia diagnosed in prostate biopsy and is not associated with cancer risk in subsequent repeat biopsies.


  • • To evaluate how often ERG, a highly prostate-cancer-specific marker, is expressed in isolated high grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN) by immunohistochemistry.
  • • To study whether a positive ERG immunostain in HGPIN correlates with prostate cancer (PCa) detection in subsequent repeat biopsies.


  • • Patients with initial HGPIN in biopsies and at least one follow-up prostate biopsy were included.
  • • Biopsies with HGPIN were immunostained for ERG.
  • • The ERG staining results were then correlated with the PCa risk in subsequent biopsies.


  • • The mean age of 94 patients was 63 years (range 48–78). A mean of 1.8 (range 1–5) repeat biopsy sessions were carried out at a mean interval of 27.4 months (range 1.5–140). The repeat biopsies showed PCa and non-cancer lesions (benign, HGPIN, atypical glands suspicious for cancer) in 36 patients (38%) and 58 patients (62%) respectively.
  • • ERG immunostain was positive in five (5.3%) biopsies with HGPIN, in which PCa was found in two (40%) subsequent biopsies. Of 89 biopsies with negative ERG staining, PCa was found in 34 (38%) repeat biopsies. The cancer detection rate was not different between ERG positive and negative cases (P= 0.299).


  • • This is the first study to investigate the ERG protein expression in prostate biopsy containing HGPIN only and its use to stratify the cancer risk associated with HGPIN. We found that ERG expression is distinctly uncommon in isolated HGPIN (5.3%).
  • • Positive ERG expression is not associated with increased cancer detection in subsequent repeat biopsies. The use of ERG immunostain in the evaluation and cancer risk stratification of HGPIN is of limited value.