Background. To elucidate the relationship between the expression of epidermal growth factor receptor family members (ErbB-1, neu/ErbB-2, ErbB-3, and ErbB-4) and tumor recurrence. Methods. We used immunohistochemistry to examine the expression of four epidermal growth factor receptor family members in 73 patients with stage I non-small cell lung cancer. Results. Using Cox univariate analysis, we determined that angiolymphatic tumor emboli and non-well-differentiated tumor cells were two significant conventional pathologic predictors of tumor recurrence, and that ErbB-1 and ErbB-3 were also significant predictors. Co-expression of ErbB-1+, -3+, or expression of three or more epidermal growth factor receptor family members had a significant effect on lung cancer recurrence. A stepwise multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression analysis provided a predictive model for tumor recurrence. Conclusions. The present study shows that in patients with a non-well-differentiated tumor, overexpression of ErbB-3 is a useful marker for predicting tumor recurrence. The present study also confirmed that ErbB-1 expression increased in proportion to the loss of tumor differentiation. The correlation between ErbB-3 and distant metastasis was good.
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