Increased EGFR levels may be an early marker of breast cancer

Apr 20, 2010

Levels of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) may be elevated in the blood of women within 17 months prior to their breast cancer diagnosis, according to findings presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 101st Annual Meeting 2010, held here April 17-21.

The goal of the study led by Christopher Li, M.D., Ph.D., an associate member of the Epidemiology Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, was to discover and validate blood markers that could potentially be used for the early detection of breast cancer.

The study was conducted on 420 estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer patients whose blood was drawn within 17 months prior to their cancer diagnosis. The researchers validated promising markers in a similar, but completely independent set of 198 cases and controls from the Women's Health Initiative database.

One of the promising markers that was discovered and could be validated was EGFR.

EGFR levels were significantly elevated among cases compared to controls. Overall, those with the highest levels had a 2.9-fold increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to those with the lowest level.

When EGFR levels were evaluated among current users of hormone therapy, a much larger ninefold increased risk of developing breast cancer was observed. As a single marker among current estrogen plus progestin users, EGFR had a specificity, the rate of true negative tests, of 90 percent and a sensitivity, the rate of true positive tests, of 31 percent as a breast cancer marker.

"While our results require confirmation and EGFR's performance is insufficient for it to be used as a single marker, this study is unique in that no prior studies have validated a single breast cancer early detection biomarker specimen to the degree we have here," said Li. "Our results suggest that there may indeed be detectable changes of proteins in blood within two years of making a clinical breast cancer diagnosis. Identification of these proteins could have a major impact on our ability to detect breast cancer early, when it is most treatable."

EGFR is part of the HER2 family, which has been shown to be quite important in . Specifically, increased EGFR activity can increase the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells and EGFR is elevated in 20 percent to 81 percent of all human breast cancers. Several therapies targeting members of the HER2 family, including EGFR, have already been approved for cancer treatment.

Explore further: Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hormone therapy raises cancer risk

Jan 16, 2008

Menopausal women who take hormone combinations for their symptoms are more likely to get an uncommon type of breast cancer much earlier than experts believed.

Estrogen therapy increases benign breast disease risk

Apr 08, 2008

Women who took conjugated equine estrogen, a commonly prescribed form of estrogen, had more than twice the risk of developing specific types of benign breast disease as women who took a placebo, according to a randomized ...

Recommended for you

Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer

Apr 17, 2014

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.