Heterogeneity of PTEN and ERG expression in prostate cancer on core needle biopsies: Implications for cancer risk stratification and biomarker sampling

Rajal B. Shah, James Bentley, Zach Jeffery, Angelo M. Demarzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


ERG and PTEN biomarkers are increasingly being analyzed on prostate core biopsies (NBXs); ERG as a marker of clonality and number of separately arising tumor foci and PTEN for prognostic information. Yet, in patients with multiple biopsy cores positive for cancer (PCa), there is no standardized approach for interrogation of these biomarkers in terms of the number of positive cores to evaluate. A total of 194 NBX cases containing more than one positive core with cancer were evaluated for ERG overexpression and PTEN loss by immunostaining (immunohistochemistry) of all positive cores. ERG overexpression or PTEN loss in at least one cancer core was present in 111 (57%) and 69 (36%) cases respectively. ERG overexpression was significantly associated with PTEN loss (P <.0001), and PTEN loss was associated with a high Gleason score (P <.0001). Inter- and intra-tumor core staining heterogeneity for ERG overexpression occurred in 42% and 5% cases and for PTEN loss both intra- and inter-tumor core heterogeneity was 68%. PTEN staining was highly discordant between PCa sites regardless of laterality. When the Gleason score was non-uniform across PCa sites, the combination of cores showing the highest Gleason score and largest tumor volume provided the best representation of ERG overexpression (92%) and PTEN loss (98%). When grades were uniform across cancer sites, the highest tumor volume core was generally representative of ERG overexpression (90%) but was less representative for PTEN loss (76%). Our results suggest that knowledge of this heterogeneity is critical for developing optimal yet cost-effective strategies to identify these underlying molecular abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)698-706
Number of pages9
JournalHuman pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015



  • Biomarkers
  • ERG
  • Heterogeneity
  • PTEN
  • Prostate cancer
  • Prostate needle biopsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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