Expression of epidermal growth factor receptor mRNA and protein in primary breast carcinomas

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 1999 Jan;53(2):167-76. doi: 10.1023/a:1006194700667.


The expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mRNA and protein has been determined in a group of breast carcinomas and compared to oestrogen and progesterone receptor (ER, PgR) status, as well as pathological features. In situ hybridization using a digoxigenin-labelled oligonucleotide probe was applied to formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded sections, and immunohistochemistry was used to determine EGFR protein. EGFR mRNA was detected in 66% of carcinomas with a third having labelling similar to normal breast tissue, 22% heterogeneous weak to strong labelling, and 11% strong labelling. EGFR protein was detected in 36% and these tumours had a strong correlation to lack of ER and high histological grade. The presence of EGFR protein was strongly correlated with more intense labelling for EGFR mRNA (p < 0.0001). This contrasted with normal breast in which both EGFR protein and mRNA were present with varying degrees in both tumours and a normal breast control. The ER-/PgR- carcinomas showed the full range of EGFR mRNA labelling. It is postulated that oestrogen or oestrogen regulated proteins are involved in regulation of EGFR mRNA and protein. In a proportion of tumours lacking steroid receptors regulation is lost, leading to EGFR overexpression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • ErbB Receptors / analysis
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / analysis
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Receptors, Progesterone / analysis


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2