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Epidermal growth factor receptor family (EGFR, ErbB2–4) in gliomas and meningiomas

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Overexpression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR, ErbB1) correlates with enhanced malignant potential of many human tumor types including glioblastoma multiforme. The significance of EGFR expression in meningiomas is, however, unclear. Reports regarding the other EGFR family members, ErbB2–4, in brain tumors are sparse. In this study, the expression of the EGFR family members was analyzed in relation to various parameters for the clinical importance of these receptors in 44 gliomas and 26 meningiomas. In gliomas, quantitative real-time reverse transcription (RT)-PCR revealed the highest EGFR mRNA expression in high-grade gliomas, while ErbB2 and ErbB3 mRNA were detected only in a few high-grade gliomas. In contrast, ErbB4 expression was most pronounced in low-grade gliomas. Immunohistochemistry showed significantly higher EGFR protein expression in high-grade gliomas compared to low-grade gliomas (P=0.004). ErbB2 protein expression was mainly seen in high-grade gliomas. ErbB3 protein expression was low in all gliomas analyzed. ErbB4 protein expression was significantly higher in low-grade gliomas than in high-grade gliomas (P=0.007). In meningiomas, quantitative real-time RT-PCR revealed expression of EGFR, ErbB2, and ErbB4 mRNA in the majority of the tumors. ErbB3 was detected in only one of the meningiomas analyzed. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated high ErbB2 protein expression in meningiomas. An intriguing observation in astrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas grade II, was a significantly decreased overall survival for patients with high EGFR protein expression (P=0.04). The high ErbB4 expression in low-grade compared to high-grade gliomas might suggest that ErbB4 acts as a suppressor of malignant transformation in brain tumors, which is in line with previous studies in other tumor types.

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This study was supported by grants from the Swedish Cancer Society and the Lion’s Cancer Research Foundation, Umeå University, Sweden. Kerstin Bergh is acknowledged for her excellent assistance with the immunohistochemical staining. We also thank Karin Andersson for secretarial assistance and Björn Tavelin for statistical help and advice.

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Correspondence to Ulrika Andersson.

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Andersson, U., Guo, D., Malmer, B. et al. Epidermal growth factor receptor family (EGFR, ErbB2–4) in gliomas and meningiomas. Acta Neuropathol 108, 135–142 (2004).

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