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Very low prevalence of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein expression and gene amplification in Saudi breast cancer patients

Mohamed A Shawarby*, Dalal M Al-Tamimi and Ayesha Ahmed

Author Affiliations

Department of Pathology, College of Medicine, University of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

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Diagnostic Pathology 2011, 6:57  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-6-57

Published: 24 June 2011



Breast cancers which demonstrate EGFR protein expression, gene amplification and/or gene mutations may benefit therapeutically from tyrosine kinase inhibitors. In Western studies, EGFR protein expression has been demonstrated in 7-36% of breast cancer patients, while gene amplification has been found in around 6% of cases and mutations were either absent or extremely rare. Studies addressing EGFR protein expression and gene amplification in Saudi breast cancer patients are extremely scanty and the results reported have been mostly non-conclusive. Herein we report the prevalence of EGFR protein expression and gene amplification in a cohort of Saudi breast cancer patients.


We noticed a remarkably low incidence of EGFR protein expression (1.3%) while analyzing the spectrum of molecular subtypes of breast cancer in a Saudi population by immunohistochemistry. Also, EGFR gene amplification could not be demonstrated in any of 231 cases studied using silver enhanced in situ hybridization.


The extremely low incidence of EGFR protein expression and gene amplification in Saudi breast cancer patients as compared to Western populations is most probably ethnically related as supported by our previous finding in the same cohort of a spectrum of molecular breast cancer types that is unique to the Saudi population and in stark contrast with Western and other regionally based studies. Further support to this view is provided by earlier studies from Saudi Arabia that have similarly shown variability in molecular breast cancer subtype distribution between Saudi and Caucasian populations as well as a predominance of the high-grade pathway in breast cancer development in Middle East women. More studies on EGFR in breast cancer are needed from different regions of Saudi Arabia before our assumption can be confirmed, however.

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