by John B. McIntyre, Pinaki Bose, Alexander C. Klimowicz, Nigel T. Brockton, Stephanie Petrillo, Wayne Matthews, Jay Easaw, Anthony Magliocco, Joseph C. Dort
The tumor-specific EGFR deletion mutant, EGFRvIII, is characterised by ligand-independent constitutive signalling. Tumors expressing EGFRvIII are resistant to current EGFR-targeted therapy. The frequency of EGFRvIII in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is disputed and may vary by specific sub-site. The purpose of this study was to measure the occurrence of EGFRvIII mutations in a specific HNSCC subsite, oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), using a novel real-time PCR assay. Methodology
Pre-treatment Formalin Fixed Paraffin Embedded (FFPE) cancer specimens from 50 OSCC patients were evaluated for the presence of EGFRvIII using a novel hydrolysis probe-based real-time PCR assay. EGFR protein expression in tumor samples was quantified using fluorescent immunohistochemistry (IHC) and AQUA® technology. Principal findings
We detected EGFRvIII in a single OSCC patient in our cohort (2%). We confirmed the validity of our detection technique in an independent cohort of glioblastoma patients. We also compared the sensitivity and specificity of our novel real-time EGFRvIII detection assay to conventional RT-PCR and direct sequencing. Our assay can specifically detect EGFRvIII and can discriminate against wild-type EGFR in FFPE tumor samples. AQUAnalysis® revealed that the presence of EGFRvIII transcript is associated with very high EGFR protein expression (98th percentile). Contrary to previous reports, only 44% of OSCC over-expressed EGFR in our study. Conclusion and Significance
Our results suggest that the EGFRvIII mutation is rare in OSCC and corroborate previous reports of EGFRvIII expression only in tumors with extreme over-expression of EGFR. We conclude that EGFRvIII-specific therapies may not be ideally suited as first-line treatment in OSCC. Furthermore, highly specific and sensitive methods, such as the real-time RT-PCR assay and AQUAnalysis® described here, will provide accurate assessment of EGFR mutation frequency and EGFR expression, and will facilitate the selection of optimal tailored therapies for OSCC patients.