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EGFR Mutation Testing

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Also known as: Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation Analysis; HER-1; erbB-1
Formal name: Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor

Were you looking instead for Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate, also known as eGFR? If so, see the article on eGFR.

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To detect an EGFR gene mutation in tumor tissue to help guide treatment of non-small cell lung cancer

When to Get Tested?

When you have been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and your health practitioner is considering treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as gefitinib and erlotinib

Sample Required?

A sample of cancer tissue obtained during a biopsy

Test Preparation Needed?


The Test Sample

What is being tested?

EGFR is a short name for the epidermal growth factor receptor gene. This test detects mutations in the EGFR gene in cancer tissue. This information is useful in guiding treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.

The EGFR gene codes for a specialized protein called a receptor located on the surface of cells. Receptors recognize and bind to other substances, and the binding typically has a specific effect on the cells.

EGFR is one of a group of receptors called receptor tyrosine kinases that help regulate cell growth, division, survival, and death. This regulation is a very complex process involving the activation of a series of signals along various pathways. Receptor tyrosine kinases like EGFR transmit signals from the surface of the cell to within the cell.

In normal cells, the binding of epidermal growth factor to its receptor on the cell surface is an important signal that promotes cell proliferation. Certain mutations called "activating mutations" in the EGFR gene can result in excessive signaling for growth and uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells.

Treatment that targets EGFR is a valuable molecular approach in cancer therapy. Examples of EGFR-targeted therapy include drugs such as gefitonib and erlotinib, which are small molecules called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that enter cancer cells and impede signaling.

These drugs have been shown to be useful in treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Studies have shown that targeted therapy with these TKIs will only work in a subset of NSCLC with specific activating mutations in the EGFR gene. If an activating mutation is present, as detected with an EGFR mutation test, then the drugs directed against EGFR are much more likely to be effective and the patient should benefit from targeted therapy.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A sample of cancer tissue is obtained by performing a biopsy.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed.

The Test

Common Questions

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Article Sources

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

Sources Used in Most Recent Review

Timothy S. Uphoff, PhD, D(ABMG), MLS(ASCP)CM. Section Head Molecular Pathology Laboratory, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield WI.

Cheng, L. et. al. (2011 May 31). The Landscape of EGFR Pathways and Personalized Management of Non-small-cell Lung Cancer. Medscape Today News from Future Oncology. 2011;7(4):519-541 [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed.December 2013

Grenache, D. et. al. (Updated 2013 November). Lung Cancer. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed December 2013.

(© 1995-2013). Test ID: FEGFR91903 EGFR Mutation Analysis in NSCLC. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed December 2013.

Chen, Y. (Updated 2011 August 24). Lung cancer - non-small cell. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed December 2013.

Tietz Textbook of Clinical Chemistry and Molecular Diagnostics. Burtis CA, Ashwood ER, Bruns DE, eds. St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders; 2006, Pp 779-780.

(Updated May 22, 2013) American Cancer Society. Targeted Therapy. Available online at through Accessed December 2013.

Raparia K, et al. Molecular Profiling in Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer: A Step Toward Personalized Medicine. Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine 2013 137:4, 481-491. Available online at through Accessed December 2013.

(July 15, 2013) Markman M. Genetics of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Medscape Reference article. Available online at through Accessed December 2013.

(Oct 21, 2013) Tan W. Non-small Cell Lung Cancer. Medscape Reference article. Available online at through Accessed December 2013.

Lindeman N, et al. Molecular testing guideline for selection of lung cancer patients for EGFR and ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors: guideline from the College of American Pathologists, International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, and Association for Molecular Pathology. J Thorac Oncol. 2013 Jul;8(7):823-59.

Sources Used in Previous Reviews

Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition].

Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (2001). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 5th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO.

(2004 April). EGFR by FISH. ARUP Technical Bulletin [On-line information]. PDF available for dowload at through

(© 2004). EGFR by FISH. ARUP's Guide to Clinical Laboratory Testing [On-line information]. Available online at through

Check, W. (2004 January). New school of FISH: solid tumor testing. CAP Cover Story [On-line journal article]. Available online at through

(2004). Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Assay, Iressa (Gefitinib) responsiveness in lung cancer, EGFR Gene Analysis. Clinical Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory [On-line information]. Available Online at through

(© 2003). Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), Breast Cancer. LabCorp [On-line test information]. Available Online at through

(2004 April 29). Discovery Promises Better Use of Iressa for Lung Cancer. American Cancer Society, ACS News Center [On-line article]. Available online at through

Ang, K. et. al. (2002 December 15). Impact of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Expression on Survival and Pattern of Relapse in Patients with Advanced Head and Neck Carcinoma. Cancer Research 62, 7350-7356 [On-line journal]. Available Online at through

(2004 April 29). Presence of Gene Mutation Tightly Linked to Drug Effectiveness in Lung Cancer. National Cancer Institute [On-line news]. Available Online at through

Billingsley, J. (2003 December 6). New Clue to Breast Cancer Mortality, Growth factor identified with poorer outcomes in patients. Henry Ford Health System [On-line news]. Available Online at through

Langreth, R. (2004 April 29). Gene Predicts Cancer Drug Effectiveness. Pharmaceuticals [On-line article]. Available Online at through

(2003). Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Status in Breast Cancer Metastases to the Central Nervous System - Comparison With HER-2/neu Status. CAP [On-line Abstracts From the College of American Pathologists 2003 Annual Meeting (CAP '03)]. Available Online at through

Weaver, C. and Maxon, J. (1998- 2004). Targeting Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Pathways. Current Topics in Oncology [On-line information]. Available online at through

Kuriyan, J. (2006 June 16). Researchers Learn How Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Is Activated. Howard Hughes Medical Institute [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed on 7-30-08.

American Cancer Society [On-line information]. (2007 May 14, Revised). Detailed Guide: Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer. What's New in Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer Research and Treatment? Available online through Accessed on 7-30-08.

Chu, E. et. al. (2007 July 25). Expanding Scientific Evidence for Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-Directed Therapy in Colorectal Cancer and Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck CME. Medscape Today [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed on 7-30-08.

Dacic, S. et. al. (2006 June 6). Significance of EGFR Protein Expression and Gene Amplification in Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma. Medscape from Am J Clin Pathol. 2006;125(6):860-865 [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed on 7-30-08.

Grody, W. (2007 January 30). ASCP 2006: Applications of Molecular Methods in Surgical Pathology CME/CMLE. Medscape [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed on 7-30-08.