Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is overexpressed in a significant proportion of hepatocellular carcinomas. Recent studies of EGFR inhibitors to treat hepatocellular carcinoma have been encouraging and better understanding of EGFR signaling may lead to more effective strategies for inhibiting this key pathway. The EGFR can be phosphorylated at different tyrosine sites, leading to subsequent activation of different pathways. Cell line and animal studies have shown that MAPK and STAT-3 are important mediators of the EGFR signal in liver cells. However, little is known about EGFR phosphorylation and subsequent signaling in primary hepatocellular carcinoma. We investigated the site of EGFR phosphorylation by Western blot in 18 hepatocellular carcinomas. Fourteen of 18 hepatocellular carcinomas had detectable EGFR by Western blotting and 13 of 14 showed phosphorylation at tyrosine 845. In contrast, no EGFR phosphorylation was detected at tyrosine 998, tyrosine 1045, or tyrosine 1068, which signal through other pathways including STAT-3 and MAPK. These findings were further explored by examination of EGFR expression and signaling pathway activation in tissue arrays comprised of 73 hepatocellular carcinomas using antibodies that recognize phosphorylated (or activated) proteins. Tissue array studies also found no correlation between EGFR expression (29% of cases) and STAT-3 nuclear positivity (16%), AKT (4%), MAPK (3%), or STAT-5 (3%) positivity, all P>0.05. EGFR expression was correlated with hepatitis B infection, but not with tumor size, nuclear grade, or proliferative rate. We conclude that EGFR is phosphorylated at tyrosine 845 in most hepatocellular carcinomas and that EGFR expression by immunohistochemistry does not correlate well with STAT-3, STAT-5, MAPK, or AKT immunostaining.
- Epidermal growth factor receptor
- Fibrolamellar carcinoma
- Hepatic adenoma
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine