Aims: To investigate EGFR gene copy number heterogeneity in colorectal carcinomas compared with copy number of chromosome 7 and immunohistochemical expression of the EGFR protein.
Methods and results: Fluorescence in situ hybridization of the EGFR gene and CEP7 was carried out on paraffin-embedded material from 48 rectal carcinomas combined with immunohistochemical detection of EGFR with a polymer detection kit. EGFR gene copy number had a range of 1.4-7.3 with a mean of 2.5. CEP7 copy number had a range of 1.5-6.1 with a mean of 2.5. The EGFR gene/CEP7 ratio ranged from 0.4 to 1.5 with a mean of 0.96. Most cases had a balanced EGFR gene/CEP7 ratio (37 cases = 77%). Copy gain was found in seven cases (15%) with a ratio of up to 1.5, consistent with gain of one EGFR gene copy in one chromosome. Copy loss was found in four cases (8%). All cases with EGFR gene copy loss were immunohistochemically positive.
Conclusions: Demonstration of EGFR gene copy loss might be a surrogate marker for EGFR mutation/deletion and could be used in a routine setting in pathology departments. Further studies are needed to determine whether this may be used to select patients that might benefit from specific anti-EGFR therapy.