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Abnormal expression of epidermal growth factor receptor in cutaneous epithelial tumours.

Epidermal growth factor (EGF) and transforming growth factor alpha (TGF alpha) are important keratinocyte mitogens. Their effects are mediated by a cell membrane receptor (EGFR), quantitative and qualitative abnormalities of which may be responsible for deranged keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation. We have therefore examined EGFR expression immunohistochemically in a variety of benign and malignant epithelial neoplasms using monoclonal antibodies to the extracellular and intracellular receptor domains. In benign tumours (virus wart, seborrhoeic keratosis, keratoacanthoma), there was an ordered pattern of EGFR expression. In malignant tumours (basal and squamous cell carcinoma), there was loss of membrane labelling and cytoplasmic accumulation of the receptor. In premalignant proliferations, there was loss of membrane receptor with either absent cytoplasmic EGFR (actinic keratosis) or cytoplasmic receptor accumulation (Bowen's disease). Evidence of truncated receptors was not found. We suggest that dysregulation of the EGFR may be important in the development of cutaneous epithelial malignancies but that grossly abnormal forms of the receptor do not occur.

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