We have determined the expression of transforming growth factor alpha (TGF alpha), amphiregulin (AR), CRIPTO, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), erbB-2, erbB-3, and tumor angiogenesis in a series of 195 patients with stage I-IIIA non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with radical surgery to define their usefulness as prognostic indicators of survival. A variable degree of specific staining in cancer cells was observed for the three growth factors and for the three growth factor receptors in the majority of NSCLC patients. A statistically significant association between overexpression of TGF alpha, AR, and CRIPTO was observed. Enhanced expression of AR was significantly correlated with enhanced expression of erbB-2 and advanced T-stage. A direct association was also detected for overexpression of TGF alpha and of erbB-2 or erbB-3, respectively. Sex, tumor size, nodal status, stage, microvessel count, as a measure of neovascularization, and AR overexpression significantly correlated with overall survival at univariate analysis. In a Cox multivariate analysis, the only characteristics with an independent prognostic effect on OAS were microvessel count [relative hazard (RH), 6.61; P < 0.00001), nodal status (RH, 1.59; P = 0.0013), and AR overexpression (RH, 1.72; P = 0.02). These results suggest that evaluation of neoangiogenesis and of certain growth factors, such as AR, can be useful in addition to conventional pathological staging to select high-risk NSCLC patients who may benefit from post-surgical systemic therapies.

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