EGFR and HER2 expression in primary cervical cancers and corresponding lymph node metastases: implications for targeted radiotherapy

BMC Cancer. 2008 Aug 12;8:232. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-8-232.


Background: Proteins overexpressed on the surface of tumor cells can be selectively targeted. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) are among the most often targeted proteins. The level and stability of expression in both primary tumors and corresponding metastases is crucial in the assessment of a receptor as target for imaging in nuclear medicine and for various forms of therapy. So far, the expression of EGFR and HER2 has only been determined in primary cervical cancers, and we have not found published data regarding the receptor status in corresponding metastatic lesions. The goal of this study was to evaluate whether any of these receptors are suitable as target for clinical diagnosis and therapy.

Methods: Expression of EGFR and HER2 was investigated immunohistochemically in both lymph node metastases and corresponding primary cervical cancers (n = 53). HER2 and EGFR expression was scored using HercepTest criteria (0, 1+, 2+ or 3+).

Results: EGFR overexpression (2+ or 3+) was found in 64% (35/53) of the primary cervical tumors and 60% (32/53) of the corresponding lymph node metastases. There was a good concordance between the primary tumors and the paired metastases regarding EGFR expression. Only four patients who had 2+ or 3+ in the primary tumors changed to 0 or 1+ in lymph node metastases, and another two cases changed the other way around. None of the primary tumors or the lymph node metastases expressed HER2 protein.

Conclusion: The EGFR expression seems to be common and stable during cervical cancer metastasis, which is encouraging for testing of EGFR targeted radiotherapy. HER2 appears to be of poor interest as a potential target in the treatment of cervical cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma / radiotherapy*
  • ErbB Receptors / biosynthesis*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Genes, erbB-2*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Radiotherapy / methods*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / biosynthesis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / genetics
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / radiotherapy*


  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2