Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a transmembrane glycoprotein, with an intracellular domain and tyrosine kinase function (TK) involved in cell proliferation. Dysfunctions in EGFR signaling pathways have been associated with oral malignant tumors such as oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Dysfunctions of EGFR may result from: increased EGF ligand; EGFR overexpression and copy number gain of the EGFR gene (EGFR CNG); EGFR mutations; failure in the downregulation of EGFR; and EGFR crosstalk. Of these alterations, overexpression of EGFR is by far the most studied dysfunction in OSCC. Clinicians should identify possible alterations of EGFR in the oral mucosa of patients, as EGFR can act as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of OSCC. Currently, there are several methods and techniques for detecting EGFR. Immunohistochemistry (IHC), fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), are used to identify overexpression of EGFR, EGFR CNG and EGFR mutations, respectively. Detection of EGFR as a biomarker is key to identify any oral malignant transformation. Consequently, it becomes imperative to implement a non-invasive and inexpensive method of early diagnosis for OSCC in clinical practice.
Facultad de Odontología, Universidad de Concepción, Chile.