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1.  Alterations in Genes of the EGFR Signaling Pathway and Their Relationship to EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Sensitivity in Lung Cancer Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4576.
Deregulation of EGFR signaling is common in non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) and this finding led to the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that are highly effective in a subset of NSCLC. Mutations of EGFR (mEGFR) and copy number gains (CNGs) of EGFR (gEGFR) and HER2 (gHER2) have been reported to predict for TKI response. Mutations in KRAS (mKRAS) are associated with primary resistance to TKIs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated the relationship between mutations, CNGs and response to TKIs in a large panel of NSCLC cell lines. Genes studied were EGFR, HER2, HER3 HER4, KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA. Mutations were detected by sequencing, while CNGs were determined by quantitative PCR (qPCR), fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH). IC50 values for the TKIs gefitinib (Iressa) and erlotinib (Tarceva) were determined by MTS assay. For any of the seven genes tested, mutations (39/77, 50.6%), copy number gains (50/77, 64.9%) or either (65/77, 84.4%) were frequent in NSCLC lines. Mutations of EGFR (13%) and KRAS (24.7%) were frequent, while they were less frequent for the other genes. The three techniques for determining CNG were well correlated, and qPCR data were used for further analyses. CNGs were relatively frequent for EGFR and KRAS in adenocarcinomas. While mutations were largely mutually exclusive, CNGs were not. EGFR and KRAS mutant lines frequently demonstrated mutant allele specific imbalance i.e. the mutant form was usually in great excess compared to the wild type form. On a molar basis, sensitivity to gefitinib and erlotinib were highly correlated. Multivariate analyses led to the following results:
 1. mEGFR and gEGFR and gHER2 were independent factors related to gefitinib sensitivity, in descending order of importance.
 2. mKRAS was associated with increased in vitro resistance to gefitinib.
Our in vitro studies confirm and extend clinical observations and demonstrate the relative importance of both EGFR mutations and CNGs and HER2 CNGs in the sensitivity to TKIs.
PMCID: PMC2642732  PMID: 19238210
2.  KRAS mutant allele-specific imbalance is associated with worse prognosis in pancreatic cancer and progression to undifferentiated carcinoma of the pancreas 
KRAS codon 12 mutations are present in about 90% of ductal adenocarcinomas and in undifferentiated carcinomas of the pancreas. The role of KRAS copy number changes and resulting KRAS mutant allele-specific imbalance (MASI) in ductal adenocarcinoma (n=94), and its progression into undifferentiated carcinoma of the pancreas (n=25) was studied by direct sequencing and KRAS fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Semi-quantitative evaluation of sequencing electropherograms showed KRAS MASI (ie, mutant allele peak higher than or equal to the wild-type allele peak) in 22 (18.4%) cases. KRAS FISH (performed on 45 cases) revealed a trend for more frequent KRAS amplification among cases with KRAS MASI (7/20, 35% vs 3/25, 12%, P=0.08). KRAS amplification by FISH was seen only in undifferentiated carcinomas (10/24, 42% vs 0/21 pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, 0%, P=0.0007). In 6 of 11 cases with both undifferentiated and well-differentiated components, transition to undifferentiated carcinoma was associated with an increase in KRAS copy number, due to amplification and/or chromosome 12 hyperploidy. Pancreatic carcinomas with KRAS MASI (compared to those without MASI) were predominantly undifferentiated (16/22, 73% vs 9/97, 9%, P<0.001), more likely to present at clinical stage IV (5/22, 23% vs 7/97, 7%, P=0.009), and were associated with shorter overall survival (9 months, 95% confidence interval, 5–13, vs 22 months, 95% confidence interval, 17–27; P=0.015) and shorter disease-free survival (5 months, 95% confidence interval, 2–8 vs 13 months, 95% confidence interval, 10–16; P=0.02). Our findings suggest that in a subset of ductal adenocarcinomas, KRAS MASI correlates with the progression to undifferentiated carcinoma of the pancreas.
PMCID: PMC4128625  PMID: 23599154
fluorescence in situ hybridization; KRAS; mutant allele-specific imbalance; pancreatic cancer; undifferentiated carcinoma
3.  The Prognostic and Predictive Value of KRAS Oncogene Substitutions in Lung Adenocarcinoma 
Cancer  2013;119(12):2268-2274.
The prognostic and therapeutic implications of the spectrum of KRAS oncogene substitutions in lung cancer remain poorly understood. The objective of this study was to determine if KRAS oncogene substitutions differed with regard to prognosis or predictive value in lung adenocarcinoma.
KRAS oncogene substitutions and mutant-allele specific imbalance (MASI) were determined in patients with lung adenocarcinoma and associations with overall survival (OS) and recurrence free survival (RFS), and chemotherapy interactions were assessed.
KRAS mutational analysis was performed on 988 lung adenocarcinomas, and 318 KRAS mutations were identified. In this predominantly early stage cohort (78.6% stage I–III), OS and RFS did not differ by the type of KRAS substitution (OS, p=0.612; RFS P=0.089). There was a trend toward better OS in the subset of patients with KRAS codon 13 mutations (p=0.052), which was not significant in multivariate analysis (p=0.076). RFS did not differ by codon type in univariate analysis (p=0.322). There was a marked difference in RFS based on the presence of MASI in univariate (p=0.004) and multivariate analysis (p=0.009). A test for interaction was performed in order to determine if the effect of chemotherapy on OS and RFS differed based on the type of KRAS substitution, codon type or the presence of MASI. There were no differences in the effects of chemotherapy for any of variables examined.
KRAS codon 13 mutations and MASI are candidate biomarkers for prognosis that may be useful to incorporate in prospective studies evaluating novel therapies in KRAS mutant lung adenocarcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3674175  PMID: 23526491
KRAS; lung adenocarcinoma; mutant allele-specific imbalance; prognosis; prediction
4.  Polymorphisms, Mutations, and Amplification of the EGFR Gene in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(4):e125.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene is the prototype member of the type I receptor tyrosine kinase (TK) family and plays a pivotal role in cell proliferation and differentiation. There are three well described polymorphisms that are associated with increased protein production in experimental systems: a polymorphic dinucleotide repeat (CA simple sequence repeat 1 [CA-SSR1]) in intron one (lower number of repeats) and two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the promoter region, −216 (G/T or T/T) and −191 (C/A or A/A). The objective of this study was to examine distributions of these three polymorphisms and their relationships to each other and to EGFR gene mutations and allelic imbalance (AI) in non-small cell lung cancers.
Methods and Findings
We examined the frequencies of the three polymorphisms of EGFR in 556 resected lung cancers and corresponding non-malignant lung tissues from 336 East Asians, 213 individuals of Northern European descent, and seven of other ethnicities. We also studied the EGFR gene in 93 corresponding non-malignant lung tissue samples from European-descent patients from Italy and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 250 normal healthy US individuals enrolled in epidemiological studies including individuals of European descent, African–Americans, and Mexican–Americans. We sequenced the four exons (18–21) of the TK domain known to harbor activating mutations in tumors and examined the status of the CA-SSR1 alleles (presence of heterozygosity, repeat number of the alleles, and relative amplification of one allele) and allele-specific amplification of mutant tumors as determined by a standardized semiautomated method of microsatellite analysis. Variant forms of SNP −216 (G/T or T/T) and SNP −191 (C/A or A/A) (associated with higher protein production in experimental systems) were less frequent in East Asians than in individuals of other ethnicities (p < 0.001). Both alleles of CA-SSR1 were significantly longer in East Asians than in individuals of other ethnicities (p < 0.001). Expression studies using bronchial epithelial cultures demonstrated a trend towards increased mRNA expression in cultures having the variant SNP −216 G/T or T/T genotypes. Monoallelic amplification of the CA-SSR1 locus was present in 30.6% of the informative cases and occurred more often in individuals of East Asian ethnicity. AI was present in 44.4% (95% confidence interval: 34.1%–54.7%) of mutant tumors compared with 25.9% (20.6%–31.2%) of wild-type tumors (p = 0.002). The shorter allele in tumors with AI in East Asian individuals was selectively amplified (shorter allele dominant) more often in mutant tumors (75.0%, 61.6%–88.4%) than in wild-type tumors (43.5%, 31.8%–55.2%, p = 0.003). In addition, there was a strong positive association between AI ratios of CA-SSR1 alleles and AI of mutant alleles.
The three polymorphisms associated with increased EGFR protein production (shorter CA-SSR1 length and variant forms of SNPs −216 and −191) were found to be rare in East Asians as compared to other ethnicities, suggesting that the cells of East Asians may make relatively less intrinsic EGFR protein. Interestingly, especially in tumors from patients of East Asian ethnicity, EGFR mutations were found to favor the shorter allele of CA-SSR1, and selective amplification of the shorter allele of CA-SSR1 occurred frequently in tumors harboring a mutation. These distinct molecular events targeting the same allele would both be predicted to result in greater EGFR protein production and/or activity. Our findings may help explain to some of the ethnic differences observed in mutational frequencies and responses to TK inhibitors.
Masaharu Nomura and colleagues examine the distribution ofEGFR polymorphisms in different populations and find differences that might explain different responses to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in lung cancer patients.
Editors' Summary
Most cases of lung cancer—the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide—are “non-small cell lung cancer” (NSCLC), which has a very low cure rate. Recently, however, “targeted” therapies have brought new hope to patients with NSCLC. Like all cancers, NSCLC occurs when cells begin to divide uncontrollably because of changes (mutations) in their genetic material. Chemotherapy drugs treat cancer by killing these rapidly dividing cells, but, because some normal tissues are sensitive to these agents, it is hard to kill the cancer completely without causing serious side effects. Targeted therapies specifically attack the changes in cancer cells that allow them to divide uncontrollably, so it might be possible to kill the cancer cells selectively without damaging normal tissues. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGRF) was one of the first molecules for which a targeted therapy was developed. In normal cells, messenger proteins bind to EGFR and activate its “tyrosine kinase,” an enzyme that sticks phosphate groups on tyrosine (an amino acid) in other proteins. These proteins then tell the cell to divide. Alterations to this signaling system drive the uncontrolled growth of some cancers, including NSCLC.
Why Was This Study Done?
Molecules that inhibit the tyrosine kinase activity of EGFR (for example, gefitinib) dramatically shrink some NSCLCs, particularly those in East Asian patients. Tumors shrunk by tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) often (but not always) have mutations in EGFR's tyrosine kinase. However, not all tumors with these mutations respond to TKIs, and other genetic changes—for example, amplification (multiple copies) of the EGFR gene—also affect tumor responses to TKIs. It would be useful to know which genetic changes predict these responses when planning treatments for NSCLC and to understand why the frequency of these changes varies between ethnic groups. In this study, the researchers have examined three polymorphisms—differences in DNA sequences that occur between individuals—in the EGFR gene in people with and without NSCLC. In addition, they have looked for associations between these polymorphisms, which are present in every cell of the body, and the EGFR gene mutations and allelic imbalances (genes occur in pairs but amplification or loss of one copy, or allele, often causes allelic imbalance in tumors) that occur in NSCLCs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured how often three EGFR polymorphisms (the length of a repeat sequence called CA-SSR1, and two single nucleotide variations [SNPs])—all of which probably affect how much protein is made from the EGFR gene—occurred in normal tissue and NSCLC tissue from East Asians and individuals of European descent. They also looked for mutations in the EGFR tyrosine kinase and allelic imbalance in the tumors, and then determined which genetic variations and alterations tended to occur together in people with the same ethnicity. Among many associations, the researchers found that shorter alleles of CA-SSR1 and the minor forms of the two SNPs occurred less often in East Asians than in individuals of European descent. They also confirmed that EGFR kinase mutations were more common in NSCLCs in East Asians than in European-descent individuals. Furthermore, mutations occurred more often in tumors with allelic imbalance, and in tumors where there was allelic imbalance and an EGFR mutation, the mutant allele was amplified more often than the wild-type allele.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers use these associations between gene variants and tumor-associated alterations to propose a model to explain the ethnic differences in mutational frequencies and responses to TKIs seen in NSCLC. They suggest that because of the polymorphisms in the EGFR gene commonly seen in East Asians, people from this ethnic group make less EGFR protein than people from other ethnic groups. This would explain why, if a threshold level of EGFR is needed to drive cells towards malignancy, East Asians have a high frequency of amplified EGFR tyrosine kinase mutations in their tumors—mutation followed by amplification would be needed to activate EGFR signaling. This model, though speculative, helps to explain some clinical findings, such as the frequency of EGFR mutations and of TKI sensitivity in NSCLCs in East Asians. Further studies of this type in different ethnic groups and in different tumors, as well as with other genes for which targeted therapies are available, should help oncologists provide personalized cancer therapies for their patients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
US National Cancer Institute information on lung cancer and on cancer treatment for patients and professionals
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on NSCLC
Cancer Research UK information for patients about all aspects of lung cancer, including treatment with TKIs
Wikipedia pages on lung cancer, EGFR, and gefitinib (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1876407  PMID: 17455987
5.  Mechanisms of Resistance to Crizotinib in Patients with ALK Gene Rearranged Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Patients with anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangements often manifest dramatic responses to crizotinib, a small molecule ALK inhibitor. Unfortunately, not every patient responds and acquired drug resistance inevitably develops in those that do respond. This study aimed to define molecular mechanisms of resistance to crizotinib in ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients.
Experimental Design
We analyzed tissue obtained from 14 ALK+ NSCLC patients demonstrating evidence of radiologic progression while on crizotinib in order to define mechanisms of intrinsic and acquired resistance to crizotinib.
Eleven patients had material evaluable for molecular analysis. Four patients (36%) developed secondary mutations in the tyrosine kinase domain of ALK. A novel mutation in the ALK kinase domain, encoding a G1269A amino acid substitution that confers resistance to crizotinib in vitro, was identified in two of these cases. Two patients, one with a resistance mutation, exhibited new onset ALK copy number gain (CNG). One patient demonstrated outgrowth of EGFR mutant NSCLC without evidence of a persistent ALK gene rearrangement. Two patients exhibited a KRAS mutation, one of which occurred without evidence of a persisting ALK gene rearrangement. One patient demonstrated the emergence of an ALK gene fusion negative tumor compared to the baseline sample, but with no identifiable alternate driver. Two patients retained ALK positivity with no identifiable resistance mechanism.
Crizotinib resistance in ALK+ NSCLC occurs through somatic kinase domain mutations, ALK gene fusion CNG, and emergence of separate oncogenic drivers.
PMCID: PMC3311875  PMID: 22235099
oncogene fusion; anaplastic lymphoma kinase; protein kinase inhibitors; drug resistance; non-small cell lung cancer
6.  Oncogenic KRAS-induced epiregulin overexpression contributes to aggressive phenotype and is a promising therapeutic target in non-small-cell lung cancer 
Oncogene  2012;32(34):4034-4042.
KRAS mutations are one of the most common driver mutations in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and finding druggable target molecules to inhibit oncogenic KRAS signaling is a significant challenge in NSCLC therapy. We recently identified epiregulin (EREG) as one of several putative transcriptional targets of oncogenic KRAS signaling in both KRAS-mutant NSCLC cells and immortalized bronchial epithelial cells expressing ectopic mutant KRAS. In the current study, we found that EREG is overexpressed in NSCLCs harboring KRAS, BRAF or EGFR mutations compared with NSCLCs with wild-type KRAS/BRAF/EGFR. Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting mutant KRAS, but not an siRNA targeting wild-type KRAS, significantly reduced EREG expression in KRAS-mutant and EREG-overexpressing NSCLC cell lines. In these cell lines, EREG expression was downregulated by MEK and ERK inhibitors. Importantly, EREG expression significantly correlated with KRAS expression or KRAS copy number in KRAS-mutant NSCLC cell lines. Further expression analysis using 89 NSCLC specimens showed that EREG was predominantly expressed in NSCLCs with pleural involvement, lymphatic permeation or vascular invasion and in KRAS-mutant adenocarcinomas. In addition, multivariate analysis revealed that EREG expression is an independent prognostic marker and EREG overexpression in combination with KRAS mutations was associated with an unfavorable prognosis for lung adenocarcinoma patients. In KRAS-mutant and EREG overexpressing NSCLC cells, siRNA-mediated EREG silencing inhibited anchorage-dependent and -independent growth and induced apoptosis. Our findings suggest that oncogenic KRAS-induced EREG overexpression contributes to an aggressive phenotype and could be a promising therapeutic target in oncogenic KRAS-driven NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC4451140  PMID: 22964644
NSCLC; KRAS; EREG; therapeutic target
7.  Abnormalities of the TITF-1 lineage-specific oncogene in NSCLC: Implications in lung cancer pathogenesis and prognosis 
Emerging evidence suggests that aberrant expression of oncogenes contributes to development of lung malignancy. The thyroid transcription factor 1 (TITF-1) gene functions as a lineage survival gene abnormally expressed in a significant fraction of NSCLCs, in particular lung adenocarcinomas.
To better characterize TITF-1 abnormality: patterns in NSCLC, we studied TITF-1’s gene copy number using fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) and quantitative PCR, as well as its protein expression by immunohistochemistry analysis in a tissue microarray comprised of surgically resected NSCLC (N=321) including 204 adenocarcinomas and 117 squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). TITF-1 copy number and protein expression were correlated with patients’ clinicopathologic characteristics, and in a subset of adenocarcinomas with EGFR and KRAS mutation status.
We found that increased TITF-1 protein expression was prevalent in lung adenocarcinomas only and was significantly associated with female gender (p<0.001), never smokers (p=0.004), presence of EGFR mutations (p=0.05) and better overall survival (all stages, p=0.0478. stages I and II, p=0.002). TITF-1 copy number gain (CBG) was detected by FISH analysis in both adenocarcinomas (18.9%; high CNG, 8.3%) and SCCs (20.1%; high CNG, 3.0%), and correlated significantly with the protein product (p=0.004) and presence of KRAS mutations (p=0.008) in lung adenocarcinomas. Moreover, multivariate analysis revealed that TITF-1 copy number gain was an independent predictor of poor survival of NSCLC (p=0.039).
Our integrative study demonstrates that the protein versus genomic expression patterns of TITF-1 have opposing roles in lung cancer prognosis and may occur preferentially in different subsets of NSCLC patients with distinct oncogene mutations.
PMCID: PMC3078948  PMID: 21257719
NSCLC; TITF-1; gene copy gain; lineage-specific oncogenes
8.  Evidence that synthetic lethality underlies the mutual exclusivity of oncogenic KRAS and EGFR mutations in lung adenocarcinoma 
eLife  null;4:e06907.
Human lung adenocarcinomas (LUAD) contain mutations in EGFR in ∼15% of cases and in KRAS in ∼30%, yet no individual adenocarcinoma appears to carry activating mutations in both genes, a finding we have confirmed by re-analysis of data from over 600 LUAD. Here we provide evidence that co-occurrence of mutations in these two genes is deleterious. In transgenic mice programmed to express both mutant oncogenes in the lung epithelium, the resulting tumors express only one oncogene. We also show that forced expression of a second oncogene in human cancer cell lines with an endogenous mutated oncogene is deleterious. The most prominent features accompanying loss of cell viability were vacuolization, other changes in cell morphology, and increased macropinocytosis. Activation of ERK, p38 and JNK in the dying cells suggests that an overly active MAPK signaling pathway may mediate the phenotype. Together, our findings indicate that mutual exclusivity of oncogenic mutations may reveal unexpected vulnerabilities and therapeutic possibilities.
eLife digest
A person develops cancer when changes in a cell's DNA (called mutations) allow the cell to grow rapidly and spread around the body. The mutated genes are often involved in controlling the growth of cells, such as two genes called EGFR and KRAS, which are associated with forms of lung cancer.
In a type of lung cancer called adenocarcinoma, the KRAS gene is mutated in about one-third of tumors and the EGFR gene is mutated in about 15%. However, the two mutations rarely or never occur in the same tumor. This could be because the effects of the mutations overlap, so that cells with both mutations have no advantages over cells with just one. Alternatively, it is possible that having both mutations may be harmful to tumor cells.
Here, Unni, Lockwood et al. analyzed genetic data from over 600 lung tumors and confirmed that none of them have cancer-causing mutations in both KRAS and EGFR. Then, Unni, Lockwood et al. carried out experiments using genetically engineered mice with mutated forms of both KRAS and EGFR that are activated by a drug called doxycycline. As expected, the mice developed lung tumors when exposed to the drug, but these tumors didn't grow any faster than mouse tumors that had mutations in only one of the genes. In the mice with both mutant genes, only one of the two genes was actually active in most of the tumor cells.
Unni, Lockwood et al. manipulated human lung tumor cells in the laboratory so that the cells had mutated versions of both genes. These cells developed serious abnormalities and died, which may be due to the over-activation of a communication pathway within the cells called MAPK signaling. The next challenges are to understand why the combination of these two mutant genes kills these cancer cells and to look for other combinations of mutations that can be toxic to cancer cells. In the future, it might be possible to develop drugs that can mimic the effects of these gene mutations to treat cancers.
PMCID: PMC4478584  PMID: 26047463
lung cancer; oncogenes; synthetic lethality; human; mouse
9.  Increased VEGFR-2 Gene Copy Is Associated With Chemoresistance and Shorter Survival in Patients with Non-small Cell Lung Carcinoma Who Receive Adjuvant Chemotherapy 
Cancer research  2011;71(16):5512-5521.
Vascular endothelial growth factor-2 (VEGFR-2 or KDR) is a known endothelial target also expressed in NSCLC tumor cells. We investigated the association between alterations in the KDR gene and clinical outcome in patients with resected NSCLC (n=248). KDR copy number gains (CNGs), measured by quantitative PCR and fluorescence in situ hybridization, were detected in 32% of tumors and associated with significantly higher KDR protein and higher microvessel density than tumors without CNGs. KDR CNGs were also associated with significantly increased risk of death (HR=5.16; P=0.003) in patients receiving adjuvant platinum-based chemotherapy, but no differences were observed in patients not receiving adjuvant therapy. To investigate potential mechanisms for these associations we assessed NSCLC cell lines and found that KDR CNGs were significantly associated with in vitro resistance to platinum chemotherapy as well as increased levels of nuclear HIF-1α in both NSCLC tumor specimens and cell lines. Furthermore, KDR knockdown experiments using small interfering RNA reduced platinum resistance, cell migration, and HIF-1α levels in cells bearing KDR CNGs, providing evidence for direct involvement of KDR. No KDR mutations were detected in exons 7, 11 and 21 by PCR-based sequencing; however, two variant SNP genotypes were associated with favorable overall survival in adenocarcinoma patients. Our findings suggest that tumor cell KDR CNGs may promote a more malignant phenotype including increased chemoresistance, angiogenesis, and HIF-1α levels, and that KDR CNGs may be a useful biomarker for identifying patients at high risk for recurrence after adjuvant therapy, a group that may benefit from VEGFR-2 blockade.
PMCID: PMC3159530  PMID: 21724587
10.  Ras Effector Mutant Expression Suggest a Negative Regulator Inhibits Lung Tumor Formation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84745.
Lung cancer is currently the most deadly malignancy in industrialized countries and accounts for 18% of all cancer-related deaths worldwide. Over 70% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are diagnosed at a late stage, with a 5-year survival below 10%. KRAS and the EGFR are frequently mutated in NSCLC and while targeted therapies for patients with EGFR mutations exist, oncogenic KRAS is thus far not druggable. KRAS activates multiple signalling pathways, including the PI3K/Akt pathway, the Raf-Mek-Erk pathway and the RalGDS/Ral pathway. Lung-specific expression of BrafV600E, the most prevalent BRAF mutation found in human tumors, results in Raf-Mek-Erk pathway activation and in the formation of benign adenomas that undergo widespread senescence in a Cre-activated Braf mouse model (BrafCA). However, oncogenic KRAS expression in mice induces adenocarcinomas, suggesting additional KRAS-activated pathways cooperate with sustained RAF-MEK-ERK signalling to bypass the oncogene-induced senescence proliferation arrest.
To determine which KRAS effectors were responsible for tumor progression, we created four effector domain mutants (S35, G37, E38 and C40) in G12V-activated KRAS and expressed these alone or with BrafV600E in mouse lungs… The S35 and E38 mutants bind to Raf proteins but not PI3K or RalGDS; the G37 mutant binds to RalGDS and not Raf or PI3K and the C40 mutant is specific to PI3K. We designed lentiviral vectors to code for Cre recombinase along with KRAS mutants (V12, V12/S35, V12/G37, V12/E38 or V12/C40) or EGFP as a negative control.. These lentiviruses were used to infect BrafCA and wild-type mice. Surprisingly there was a significant decrease in tumor number and penetrance with each KRAS effector domain mutant relative to controls, suggesting that KRAS directly activates effectors with tumor suppressive functions.
PMCID: PMC3904846  PMID: 24489653
11.  A novel method, digital genome scanning detects KRAS gene amplification in gastric cancers: involvement of overexpressed wild-type KRAS in downstream signaling and cancer cell growth 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:198.
Gastric cancer is the third most common malignancy affecting the general population worldwide. Aberrant activation of KRAS is a key factor in the development of many types of tumor, however, oncogenic mutations of KRAS are infrequent in gastric cancer. We have developed a novel quantitative method of analysis of DNA copy number, termed digital genome scanning (DGS), which is based on the enumeration of short restriction fragments, and does not involve PCR or hybridization. In the current study, we used DGS to survey copy-number alterations in gastric cancer cells.
DGS of gastric cancer cell lines was performed using the sequences of 5000 to 15000 restriction fragments. We screened 20 gastric cancer cell lines and 86 primary gastric tumors for KRAS amplification by quantitative PCR, and investigated KRAS amplification at the DNA, mRNA and protein levels by mutational analysis, real-time PCR, immunoblot analysis, GTP-RAS pull-down assay and immunohistochemical analysis. The effect of KRAS knock-down on the activation of p44/42 MAP kinase and AKT and on cell growth were examined by immunoblot and colorimetric assay, respectively.
DGS analysis of the HSC45 gastric cancer cell line revealed the amplification of a 500-kb region on chromosome 12p12.1, which contains the KRAS gene locus. Amplification of the KRAS locus was detected in 15% (3/20) of gastric cancer cell lines (8–18-fold amplification) and 4.7% (4/86) of primary gastric tumors (8–50-fold amplification). KRAS mutations were identified in two of the three cell lines in which KRAS was amplified, but were not detected in any of the primary tumors. Overexpression of KRAS protein correlated directly with increased KRAS copy number. The level of GTP-bound KRAS was elevated following serum stimulation in cells with amplified wild-type KRAS, but not in cells with amplified mutant KRAS. Knock-down of KRAS in gastric cancer cells that carried amplified wild-type KRAS resulted in the inhibition of cell growth and suppression of p44/42 MAP kinase and AKT activity.
Our study highlights the utility of DGS for identification of copy-number alterations. Using DGS, we identified KRAS as a gene that is amplified in human gastric cancer. We demonstrated that gene amplification likely forms the molecular basis of overactivation of KRAS in gastric cancer. Additional studies using a larger cohort of gastric cancer specimens are required to determine the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of KRAS amplification and overexpression.
PMCID: PMC2717977  PMID: 19545448
12.  Effect of KRAS Oncogene Substitutions on Protein Behavior: Implications for Signaling and Clinical Outcome 
Mutations in the v-Ki-ras2 Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS) play a critical role in cancer cell growth and resistance to therapy. Most mutations occur at codons 12 and 13. In colorectal cancer, the presence of any mutant KRas amino acid substitution is a negative predictor of patient response to targeted therapy. However, in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the evidence that KRAS mutation is a predictive factor is conflicting.
We used data from a molecularly targeted clinical trial for 215 patients with tissues available out of 268 evaluable patients with refractory NSCLC to examine associations between specific mutant KRas proteins and progression-free survival and tumor gene expression. Transcriptome microarray studies of patient tumor samples and reverse-phase protein array studies of a panel of 67 NSCLC cell lines with known substitutions in KRas and in immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells stably expressing different mutant KRas proteins were used to investigate signaling pathway activation. Molecular modeling was used to study the conformations of wild-type and mutant KRas proteins. Kaplan–Meier curves and Cox regression were used to analyze survival data. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Patients whose tumors had either mutant KRas-Gly12Cys or mutant KRas-Gly12Val had worse progression-free survival compared with patients whose tumors had other mutant KRas proteins or wild-type KRas (P = .046, median survival = 1.84 months) compared with all other mutant KRas (median survival = 3.35 months) or wild-type KRas (median survival = 1.95 months). NSCLC cell lines with mutant KRas-Gly12Asp had activated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI-3-K) and mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase (MEK) signaling, whereas those with mutant KRas-Gly12Cys or mutant KRas-Gly12Val had activated Ral signaling and decreased growth factor–dependent Akt activation. Molecular modeling studies showed that different conformations imposed by mutant KRas may lead to altered association with downstream signaling transducers.
Not all mutant KRas proteins affect patient survival or downstream signaling in a similar way. The heterogeneous behavior of mutant KRas proteins implies that therapeutic interventions may need to take into account the specific mutant KRas expressed by the tumor.
PMCID: PMC3274509  PMID: 22247021
13.  Heterogeneous EGFR Gene Copy Number Increase Is Common in Colorectal Cancer and Defines Response to Anti-EGFR Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99590.
Anti-EGFR therapy is commonly used to treat colorectal cancer (CRC), although only a subset of patients benefit from the treatment. While KRAS mutation predicts non-responsiveness, positive predictive markers are not in clinical practice. We previously showed that immunohistochemistry (IHC)-guided EGFR gene copy number (GCN) analysis may identify CRC patients benefiting from anti-EGFR treatment. Here we tested the predictive value of such analysis in chemorefractory metastatic CRC, elucidated EGFR GCN heterogeneity within the tumors, and evaluated the association between EGFR GCN, KRAS status, and anti-EGFR antibody response in CRC cell lines. The chemorefractory patient cohort consisted of 54 KRAS wild-type (WT) metastatic CRC patients. EGFR GCN status was analyzed by silver in situ hybridization using a cut-off value of 4.0 EGFR gene copies/cell. KRAS-WT and KRAS mutant CRC cell lines with different EGFR GCN were used in in vitro studies. The chemorefractory CRC tumors with EGFR GCN increase (≥4.0) responded better to anti-EGFR therapy than EGFR GCN (<4.0) tumors (clinical benefit, P = 0.0004; PFS, HR = 0.23, 95% CI 0.12–0.46). EGFR GCN counted using EGFR IHC guidance was significantly higher than the value from randomly selected areas verifying intratumoral EGFR GCN heterogeneity. In CRC cell lines, EGFR GCN correlated with EGFR expression. Best anti-EGFR response was seen with KRAS-WT, EGFR GCN = 4 cells and poorest response with KRAS-WT, EGFR GCN = 2 cells. Anti-EGFR response was associated with AKT and ERK1/2 phosphorylation, which was effectively inhibited only in cells with KRAS-WT and increased EGFR GCN. In conclusion, IHC-guided EGFR GCN is a promising predictor of anti-EGFR treatment efficacy in chemorefractory CRC.
PMCID: PMC4062406  PMID: 24940619
14.  Disease-associated mutations in CNGB3 promote cytotoxicity in photoreceptor-derived cells 
Molecular Vision  2013;19:1268-1281.
To determine if achromatopsia associated F525N and T383fsX mutations in the CNGB3 subunit of cone photoreceptor cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels increases susceptibility to cell death in photoreceptor-derived cells.
Photoreceptor-derived 661W cells were transfected with cDNA encoding wild-type (WT) CNGA3 subunits plus WT or mutant CNGB3 subunits, and incubated with the membrane-permeable CNG channel activators 8-(4-chlorophenylthio) guanosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (CPT-cGMP) or CPT-adenosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (CPT-cAMP). Cell viability under these conditions was determined by measuring lactate dehydrogenase release. Channel ligand sensitivity was calibrated by patch-clamp recording after expression of WT or mutant channels in Xenopus oocytes.
Coexpression of CNGA3 with CNGB3 subunits containing F525N or T383fsX mutations produced channels exhibiting increased apparent affinity for CPT-cGMP compared to WT channels. Consistent with these effects, cytotoxicity in the presence of 0.1 μM CPT-cGMP was enhanced relative to WT channels, and the increase in cell death was more pronounced for the mutation with the largest gain-of-function effect on channel gating, F525N. Increased susceptibility to cell death was prevented by application of the CNG channel blocker L-cis-diltiazem. Increased cytotoxicity was also found to be dependent on the presence of extracellular calcium.
These results indicate a connection between disease-associated mutations in cone CNG channel subunits, altered CNG channel-activation properties, and photoreceptor cytotoxicity. The rescue of cell viability via CNG channel block or removal of extracellular calcium suggests that cytotoxicity in this model depends on calcium entry through hyperactive CNG channels.
PMCID: PMC3692405  PMID: 23805033
15.  Postrecurrence survival of surgically resected pulmonary adenocarcinoma patients according to EGFR and KRAS mutation status 
Molecular and Clinical Oncology  2013;2(2):187-196.
The aim of this study was to investigate the prognosis of pulmonary adenocarcinoma patients following postoperative recurrence, according to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and Kirsten rat sarcoma 2 viral oncogene homolog (KRAS) gene mutation status and recurrence site. In total 58 adenocarcinoma patients with recurrence following surgical resection were retrospectively evaluated between 2002 and 2011. The patients were divided into groups according to the presence or absence of EGFR and KRAS mutations and the clinicopathological characteristics, recurrence sites and postrecurrence survival were compared. EGFR and KRAS mutations were detected in 26 (45%) and 11 patients (19%), respectively. Initial recurrence was distant in 25 (43%), local in 17 (29%) and both distant and local in 16 cases (28%). In EGFR-mutant (EGFR+) cases, bilateral/contralateral lung recurrence was a frequent finding. EGFR+ cases exhibited significantly better outcomes compared to KRAS+ and EGFR-KRAS- (wild-type) cases. The 2-year post-recurrence survival rates were 81, 18 and 47% in EGFR+, KRAS+ and wild-type cases, respectively. The patients with distant organ recurrence exhibited significantly worse survival compared with those without distant recurrence in wild-type, but not in the EGFR+ cases or the entire cohort. Multivariate analysis revealed that EGFR mutations and a number of recurrent lesions were the only statistically significant independent predictors of postrecurrence prognosis. Our results indicated distinct survival differences in recurrent adenocarcinoma patients according to driver mutations. Patients with EGFR-mutated tumors exhibited increased survival, regardless of recurrence at distant sites, whereas patients with KRAS-mutated adenocarcinoma exhibited poor outcome following postoperative recurrence. Therefore, the assessment of driver mutations is essential for predicting postrecurrence survival following surgical resection.
PMCID: PMC3917770  PMID: 24649331
lung cancer; postrecurrence survival; adenocarcinoma; epidermal growth factor receptor gene; Kirsten rat sarcoma 2 viral oncogene homolog gene
16.  PIK3CA Mutations Frequently Coexist with EGFR/KRAS Mutations in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and Suggest Poor Prognosis in EGFR/KRAS Wildtype Subgroup 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88291.
PIK3CA gene encoding a catalytic subunit of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) is mutated and/or amplified in various neoplasia, including lung cancer. Here we investigated PIK3CA gene alterations, the expression of core components of PI3K pathway, and evaluated their clinical importance in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Materials and methods
Oncogenic mutations/rearrangements in PIK3CA, EGFR, KRAS, HER2, BRAF, AKT1 and ALK genes were detected in tumors from 1117 patients with NSCLC. PIK3CA gene copy number was examined by fluorescent in situ hybridization and the expression of PI3K p110 subunit alpha (PI3K p110α), p-Akt, mTOR, PTEN was determined by immunohistochemistry in PIK3CA mutant cases and 108 patients without PIK3CA mutation.
PIK3CA mutation was found in 3.9% of squamous cell carcinoma and 2.7% of adenocarcinoma. Among 34 PIK3CA mutant cases, 17 tumors harbored concurrent EGFR mutations and 4 had KRAS mutations. PIK3CA mutation was significantly associated with high expression of PI3K p110α (p<0.0001), p-Akt (p = 0.024) and mTOR (p = 0.001), but not correlated with PIK3CA amplification (p = 0.463). Patients with single PIK3CA mutation had shorter overall survival than those with PIK3CA-EGFR/KRAS co-mutation or wildtype PIK3CA (p = 0.004). A significantly worse survival was also found in patients with PIK3CA mutations than those without PIK3CA mutations in the EGFR/KRAS wildtype subgroup (p = 0.043)
PIK3CA mutations frequently coexist with EGFR/KRAS mutations. The poor prognosis of patients with single PIK3CA mutation in NSCLC and the prognostic value of PIK3CA mutation in EGFR/KRAS wildtype subgroup suggest the distinct mutation status of PIK3CA gene should be determined for individual therapeutic strategies in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3922761  PMID: 24533074
17.  Copy Number Alteration and Uniparental Disomy Analysis Categorizes Japanese Papillary Thyroid Carcinomas into Distinct Groups 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e36063.
The aim of the present study was to investigate chromosomal aberrations in sporadic Japanese papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs), concomitant with the analysis of oncogene mutational status. Twenty-five PTCs (11 with BRAFV600E, 4 with RET/PTC1, and 10 without mutation in HRAS, KRAS, NRAS, BRAF, RET/PTC1, or RET/PTC3) were analyzed using Genome-Wide Human SNP Array 6.0 which allows us to detect copy number alteration (CNA) and uniparental disomy (UPD), also referred to as copy neutral loss of heterozygosity, in a single experiment. The Japanese PTCs showed relatively stable karyotypes. Seven cases (28%) showed CNA(s), and 6 (24%) showed UPD(s). Interestingly, CNA and UPD were rarely overlapped in the same tumor; the only one advanced case showed both CNA and UPD with a highly complex karyotype. Thirteen (52%) showed neither CNA nor UPD. Regarding CNA, deletions tended to be more frequent than amplifications. The most frequent and recurrent region was the deletion in chromosome 22; however, it was found in only 4 cases (16%). The degree of genomic instability did not depend on the oncogene status. However, in oncogene-positive cases (BRAFV600E and RET/PTC1), tumors with CNA/UPD were less frequent (5/15, 33%), whereas tumors with CNA/UPD were more frequent in oncogene-negative cases (7/10, 70%), suggesting that chromosomal aberrations may play a role in the development of PTC, especially in oncogene-negative tumors. These data suggest that Japanese PTCs may be classified into three distinct groups: CNA+, UPD+, and no chromosomal aberrations. BRAFV600E mutational status did not correlate with any parameters of chromosomal defects.
PMCID: PMC3340412  PMID: 22558328
18.  KRAS Testing for Anti-EGFR Therapy in Advanced Colorectal Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of the literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenomics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: or at
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis.
The objective of this systematic review is to determine the predictive value of KRAS testing in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) with two anti-EGFR agents, cetuximab and panitumumab. Economic analyses are also being conducted to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of KRAS testing.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) is usually defined as stage IV disease according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer tumour node metastasis (TNM) system or stage D in the Duke’s classification system. Patients with advanced colorectal cancer (mCRC) either present with metastatic disease or develop it through disease progression.
KRAS (Kristen-RAS, a member of the rat sarcoma virus (ras) gene family of oncogenes) is frequently mutated in epithelial cancers such as colorectal cancer, with mutations occurring in mutational hotspots (codons 12 and 13) of the KRAS protein. Involved in EGFR-mediated signalling of cellular processes such as cell proliferation, resistance to apoptosis, enhanced cell motility and neoangiogenesis, a mutation in the KRAS gene is believed to be involved in cancer pathogenesis. Such a mutation is also hypothesized to be involved in resistance to targeted anti-EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor with tyrosine kinase activity) treatments such as cetuximab and panitumumab, hence, the important in evaluating the evidence on the predictive value of KRAS testing in this context.
KRAS Mutation Testing in Advanced Colorectal Cancer
Both cetuximab and panitumumab are indicated by Health Canada in the treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer whose tumours are WT for the KRAS gene. Cetuximab may be offered as monotherapy in patients intolerant to irinotecan-based chemotherapy or in patients who have failed both irinotecan and oxaliplatin-based regimens and who received a fluoropyrimidine. It can also be administered in combination with irinotecan in patients refractory to other irinotecan-based chemotherapy regimens. Panitumumab is only indicated as a single agent after failure of fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin-, and irinotecan-containing chemotherapy regimens.
In Ontario, patients with advanced colorectal cancer who are refractory to chemotherapy may be offered the targeted anti-EGFR treatments cetuximab or panitumumab. Eligibility for these treatments is based on the KRAS status of their tumour, derived from tissue collected from surgical or biopsy specimens. It is believed that KRAS status is not affected by treatments, therefore, for patients for whom surgical tissue is available for KRAS testing, additional biopsies prior to treatment with these targeted agents is not necessary. For patients that have not undergone surgery or for whom surgical tissue is not available, a biopsy of either the primary or metastatic site is required to determine their KRAS status. This is possible as status at the metastatic and primary tumour sites is considered to be similar.
Research Question
To determine if there is predictive value of KRAS testing in guiding treatment decisions with anti-EGFR targeted therapies in advanced colorectal cancer patients refractory to chemotherapy.
Research Methods
Literature Search
The Medical Advisory Secretariat followed its standard procedures and on May 18, 2010, searched the following electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and The International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment database.
The subject headings and keywords searched included colorectal cancer, cetuximab, panitumumab, and KRAS testing. The search was further restricted to English-language articles published between January 1, 2009 and May 18, 2010 resulting in 1335 articles for review. Excluded were case reports, comments, editorials, nonsystematic reviews, and letters. Studies published from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2008 were identified in a health technology assessment conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), published in 2010. In total, 14 observational studies were identified for inclusion in this EBA: 4 for cetuximab monotherapy, 7 for the cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy, and 3 to be included in the review for panitumumab monotherapy
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles, and English or French-language HTAs published from January 2005 to May 2010, inclusive.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or observational studies, including single arm treatment studies that include KRAS testing.
Studies with data on main outcomes of interest, overall and progression-free survival.
Studies of third line treatment with cetuximab or panitumumab in patients with advanced colorectal cancer refractory to chemotherapy.
For the cetuximab-irinotecan evaluation, studies in which at least 70% of patients in the study received this combination therapy.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies whose entire sample was included in subsequent publications which have been included in this EBA.
Studies in pediatric populations.
Case reports, comments, editorials, or letters.
Outcomes of Interest
Overall survival (OS), median
Progression-free-survival (PFS), median.
Response rates.
Adverse event rates.
Quality of life (QOL).
Summary of Findings of Systematic Review
Cetuximab or Panitumumab Monotherapy
Based on moderate GRADE observational evidence, there is improvement in PFS and OS favouring patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
Cetuximab-Irinotecan Combination Therapy
There is low GRADE evidence that testing for KRAS may optimize survival benefits in patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
However, cetuximab-irinotecan combination treatments based on KRAS status discount any effect of cetuximab in possibly reversing resistance to irinotecan in patients with the mutation, as observed effects were lower than for patients without the mutation. Clinical experts have raised concerns about the biological plausibility of this observation and this conclusion would, therefore, be regarded as hypothesis generating.
Economic Analysis
Cost-effectiveness and budget impact analyses were conducted incorporating estimates of effectiveness from this systematic review. Evaluation of relative cost-effectiveness, based on a decision-analytic cost-utility analysis, assessed testing for KRAS genetic mutations versus no testing in the context of treatment with cetuximab monotherapy, panitumumab monotherapy, cetuximab in combination with irinotecan, and best supportive care.
Of importance to note is that the cost-effectiveness analysis focused on the impact of testing for KRAS mutations compared to no testing in the context of different treatment options, and does not assess the cost-effectiveness of the drug treatments alone.
KRAS status is predictive of outcomes in cetuximab and panitumumab monotherapy, and in cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy.
While KRAS testing is cost-effective for all strategies considered, it is not equally cost-effective for all treatment options.
PMCID: PMC3377508  PMID: 23074403
19.  Genomic and Transcriptional Alterations in Lung Adenocarcinoma in Relation to EGFR and KRAS Mutation Status 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78614.
In lung adenocarcinoma, the mutational spectrum is dominated by EGFR and KRAS mutations. Improved knowledge about genomic and transcriptional alterations in and between mutation-defined subgroups may identify genes involved in disease development or progression.
Genomic profiles from 457 adenocarcinomas, including 113 EGFR-mutated, 134 KRAS-mutated and 210 EGFR and KRAS-wild type tumors (EGFRwt/KRASwt), and gene expression profiles from 914 adenocarcinomas, including 309 EGFR-mutated, 192 KRAS-mutated, and 413 EGFRwt/KRASwt tumors, were assembled from different repositories. Genomic and transcriptional differences between the three mutational groups were analyzed by both supervised and unsupervised methods.
EGFR-mutated adenocarcinomas displayed a larger number of copy number alterations and recurrent amplifications, a higher fraction of total loss-of-heterozygosity, higher genomic complexity, and a more distinct expression pattern than EGFR-wild type adenocarcinomas. Several of these differences were also consistent when the three mutational groups were stratified by stage, gender and smoking status. Specific copy number alterations were associated with mutation status, predominantly including regions of gain with the highest frequency in EGFR-mutated tumors. Differential regions included both large and small regions of gain on 1p, 5q34-q35.3, 7p, 7q11.21, 12p12.1, 16p, and 21q, and losses on 6q16.3-q21, 8p, and 9p, with 20-40% frequency differences between the mutational groups. Supervised gene expression analyses identified 96 consistently differentially expressed genes between the mutational groups, and together with unsupervised analyses these analyses highlighted the difficulty in broadly resolving the three mutational groups into distinct transcriptional entities.
We provide a comprehensive overview of the genomic and transcriptional landscape in lung adenocarcinoma stratified by EGFR and KRAS mutations. Our analyses suggest that the overall genomic and transcriptional landscape of lung adenocarcinoma is affected, but only to a minor extent, by EGFR and KRAS mutation status.
PMCID: PMC3812039  PMID: 24205279
20.  Inhibition of TWIST1 Leads to Activation of Oncogene-Induced Senescence in Oncogene Driven Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2013;11(4):329-338.
A large fraction of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) are dependent on defined oncogenic driver mutations. Although targeted agents exist for EGFR- and EML4-ALK-driven NSCLC, no therapies target the most frequently found driver mutation, KRAS. Furthermore, acquired resistance to the currently targetable driver mutations is nearly universally observed. Clearly a novel therapeutic approach is needed to target oncogene driven NSCLC. We recently demonstrated that the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor Twist1 cooperates with mutant Kras to induce lung adenocarcinoma in transgenic mouse models and that inhibition of Twist1 in these models led to Kras-induced senescence. In the current study, we examine the role of TWIST1 in oncogene driven human NSCLC. Silencing of TWIST1 in KRAS mutant human NSCLC cell lines resulted in dramatic growth inhibition and either activation of a latent oncogene-induced senescence program or in some cases, apoptosis. Similar effects were observed in EGFR mutation driven and c-Met amplified NSCLC cell lines. Growth inhibition by silencing of TWIST1 was independent of p53 or p16 mutational status and did not require previously defined mediators of senescence, p21 and p27, nor could this phenotype be rescued by overexpression of SKP2. In xenograft models, silencing of TWIST1 resulted in significant growth inhibition of KRAS mutant, EGFR mutant and c-Met amplified NSCLC. Remarkably, inducible silencing of TWIST1 resulted in significant growth inhibition of established KRAS mutant tumors. Together these findings suggest that silencing of TWIST1 in oncogene driver dependent NSCLC represents a novel and promising therapeutic strategy.
PMCID: PMC3631276  PMID: 23364532
21.  Oncogenic KRAS Impairs EGFR Antibodies' Efficiency by C/EBPβ-Dependent Suppression of EGFR Expression12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2012;14(3):190-205.
Oncogenic KRAS mutations in colorectal cancer (CRC) are associated with lack of benefit from epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-directed antibody (Ab) therapy. However, the mechanisms by which constitutively activated KRAS (KRASG12V) impairs effector mechanisms of EGFR-Abs are incompletely understood. Here, we established isogenic cell line models to systematically investigate the impact of KRASG12V on tumor growth in mouse A431 xenograft models as well as on various modes of action triggered by EGFR-Abs in vitro. KRASG12V impaired EGFR-Ab-mediated growth inhibition by stimulating receptor-independent downstream signaling. KRASG12V also rendered tumor cells less responsive to Fc-mediated effector mechanisms of EGFR-Abs—such as complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC) and Ab-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). Impaired CDC and ADCC activities could be linked to reduced EGFR expression in KRAS-mutated versus wild-type (wt) cells, which was restored by small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of KRAS4b. Immunohistochemistry experiments also revealed lower EGFR expression in KRAS-mutated versus KRAS-wt harboring CRC samples. Analyses of potential mechanisms by which KRASG12V downregulated EGFR expression demonstrated significantly decreased activity of six distinct transcription factors. Additional experiments suggested the CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP) family to be implicated in the regulation of EGFR promoter activity in KRAS-mutated tumor cells by suppressing EGFR transcription through up-regulation of the inhibitory family member C/EBPβ-LIP. Thus, siRNA-mediated knockdown of C/EBPβ led to enhanced EGFR expression and Ab-mediated cytotoxicity against KRAS-mutated cells. Together, these results demonstrate that KRASG12V signaling induced C/EBPβ-dependent suppression of EGFR expression, thereby impairing Fc-mediated effector mechanisms of EGFR-Abs and rendering KRAS-mutated tumor cells less sensitive to these therapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC3323897  PMID: 22496619
22.  Knockdown of Oncogenic KRAS in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers Suppresses Tumor Growth and Sensitizes Tumor Cells to Targeted Therapy 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2011;10(2):336-346.
Oncogenic KRAS is found in >25% of lung adenocarcinomas, the major histologic subtype of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and is an important target for drug development. To this end, we generated four NSCLC lines with stable knockdown selective for oncogenic KRAS. As expected, stable knockdown of oncogenic KRAS led to inhibition of in vitro and in vivo tumor growth in the KRAS mutant NSCLC cells, but not in NSCLC cells that have wild-type KRAS (but mutant NRAS). Surprisingly, we did not see large-scale induction of cell death and the growth inhibitory effect was not complete. To further understand the ability of NSCLCs to grow despite selective removal of mutant KRAS expression, we performed microarray expression profiling of NSCLC cell lines with or without mutant KRAS knockdown and isogenic human bronchial epithelial cell lines (HBECs) with and without oncogenic KRAS. We found that while the MAPK pathway is significantly down-regulated after mutant KRAS knockdown, these NSCLCs showed increased levels of phospho-STAT3 and phospho-EGFR, and variable changes in phospho-Akt. In addition, mutant KRAS knockdown sensitized the NSCLCs to p38 and EGFR inhibitors. Our findings suggest that targeting oncogenic KRAS by itself will not be sufficient treatment but may offer possibilities of combining anti-KRAS strategies with other targeted drugs.
PMCID: PMC3061393  PMID: 21306997
23.  Analyses of clinicopathological, molecular, and prognostic associations of KRAS codon 61 and codon 146 mutations in colorectal cancer: cohort study and literature review 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:135.
KRAS mutations in codons 12 and 13 are established predictive biomarkers for anti-EGFR therapy in colorectal cancer. Previous studies suggest that KRAS codon 61 and 146 mutations may also predict resistance to anti-EGFR therapy in colorectal cancer. However, clinicopathological, molecular, and prognostic features of colorectal carcinoma with KRAS codon 61 or 146 mutation remain unclear.
We utilized a molecular pathological epidemiology database of 1267 colon and rectal cancers in the Nurse’s Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. We examined KRAS mutations in codons 12, 13, 61 and 146 (assessed by pyrosequencing), in relation to clinicopathological features, and tumor molecular markers, including BRAF and PIK3CA mutations, CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP), LINE-1 methylation, and microsatellite instability (MSI). Survival analyses were performed in 1067 BRAF-wild-type cancers to avoid confounding by BRAF mutation. Cox proportional hazards models were used to compute mortality hazard ratio, adjusting for potential confounders, including disease stage, PIK3CA mutation, CIMP, LINE-1 hypomethylation, and MSI.
KRAS codon 61 mutations were detected in 19 cases (1.5%), and codon 146 mutations in 40 cases (3.2%). Overall KRAS mutation prevalence in colorectal cancers was 40% (=505/1267). Of interest, compared to KRAS-wild-type, overall, KRAS-mutated cancers more frequently exhibited cecal location (24% vs. 12% in KRAS-wild-type; P < 0.0001), CIMP-low (49% vs. 32% in KRAS-wild-type; P < 0.0001), and PIK3CA mutations (24% vs. 11% in KRAS-wild-type; P < 0.0001). These trends were evident irrespective of mutated codon, though statistical power was limited for codon 61 mutants. Neither KRAS codon 61 nor codon 146 mutation was significantly associated with clinical outcome or prognosis in univariate or multivariate analysis [colorectal cancer-specific mortality hazard ratio (HR) = 0.81, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.29-2.26 for codon 61 mutation; colorectal cancer-specific mortality HR = 0.86, 95% CI = 0.42-1.78 for codon 146 mutation].
Tumors with KRAS mutations in codons 61 and 146 account for an appreciable proportion (approximately 5%) of colorectal cancers, and their clinicopathological and molecular features appear generally similar to KRAS codon 12 or 13 mutated cancers. To further assess clinical utility of KRAS codon 61 and 146 testing, large-scale trials are warranted.
PMCID: PMC4051153  PMID: 24885062
Clinical outcome; Colon cancer; Genetic change; RAF; RAS
24.  Effectors of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Pathway: The Genetic Profiling of KRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA, NRAS Mutations in Colorectal Cancer Characteristics and Personalized Medicine 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81628.
Mutations in KRAS oncogene are recognized biomarkers that predict lack of response to anti- epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antibody therapies. However, some patients with KRAS wild-type tumors still do not respond, so other downstream mutations in BRAF, PIK3CA and NRAS should be investigated. Herein we used direct sequencing to analyze mutation status for 676 patients in KRAS (codons 12, 13 and 61), BRAF (exon 11 and exon 15), PIK3CA (exon 9 and exon 20) and NRAS (codons12, 13 and 61). Clinicopathological characteristics associations were analyzed together with overall survival (OS) of metastatic colorectal cancer patients (mCRC). We found 35.9% (242/674) tumors harbored a KRAS mutation, 6.96% (47/675) harbored a BRAF mutation, 9.9% (62/625) harbored a PIK3CA mutation and 4.19% (26/621) harbored a NRAS mutation. KRAS mutation coexisted with BRAF, PIK3CA and NRAS mutation, PIK3CA exon9 mutation appeared more frequently in KRAS mutant tumors (P = 0.027) while NRAS mutation almost existed in KRAS wild-types (P<0.001). Female patients and older group harbored a higher KRAS mutation (P = 0.018 and P = 0.031, respectively); BRAF (V600E) mutation showed a higher frequency in colon cancer and poor differentiation tumors (P = 0.020 and P = 0.030, respectively); proximal tumors appeared a higher PIK3CA mutation (P<0.001) and distant metastatic tumors shared a higher NRAS mutation (P = 0.010). However, in this study no significant result was found between OS and gene mutation in mCRC group. To our knowledge, the first large-scale retrospective study on comprehensive genetic profile which associated with anti-EGFR MoAbs treatment selection in East Asian CRC population, appeared a specific genotype distribution picture, and the results provided a better understanding between clinicopathological characteristics and gene mutations in CRC patients.
PMCID: PMC3858242  PMID: 24339949
25.  Dasatinib sensitizes KRAS mutant colorectal tumors to cetuximab 
Oncogene  2010;30(5):561-574.
KRAS mutation is a predictive biomarker for resistance to cetuximab (Erbitux®) in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). This study sought to determine if KRAS mutant CRC lines could be sensitized to cetuximab using dasatinib (BMS-354825, sprycel®) a potent, orally bioavailable inhibitor of several tyrosine kinases, including the Src Family Kinases. We analyzed 16 CRC lines for: 1) KRAS mutation status, 2) dependence on mutant KRAS signaling, 3) expression level of EGFR and SFKs. From these analyses, we selected three KRAS mutant (LS180, LoVo, and HCT116) cell lines, and two KRAS wild type cell lines (SW48 and CaCo2). In vitro, using Poly-D-Lysine/laminin plates, KRAS mutant cell lines were resistant to cetuximab whereas parental controls showed sensitivity to cetuximab. Treatment with cetuximab and dasatinib showed a greater anti-proliferative effect on KRAS mutant line as compared to either agent alone both in vitro and in vivo. To investigate potential mechanisms for this anti-proliferative response in the combinatorial therapy we performed Human Phospho-kinase Antibody Array analysis measuring the relative phosphorylation levels of phosphorylation of 39 intracellular proteins in untreated, cetuximab, dasatinib or the combinatorial treatment in LS180, LoVo and HCT116 cells. The results of this experiment showed a decrease in a broad spectrum of kinases centered on the β-catenin pathway, the classical MAPK pathway, AKT/mTOR pathway and the family of STAT transcription factors when compared to the untreated control or monotherapy treatments. Next we analyzed tumor growth with cetuximab, dasatinib or the combination in vivo. KRAS mutant xenografts showed resistance to cetuximab therapy, whereas KRAS wild type demonstrated an anti-tumor response when treated with cetuximab. KRAS mutant tumors exhibited minimal response to dasatinib monotherapy. However, as in vitro, KRAS mutant lines exhibited a response to the combination of cetuximab and dasatinib. Combinatorial treatment of KRAS mutant xenografts resulted in decreased cell proliferation as measured by Ki67 and higher rates of apoptosis as measured by TUNEL. The data presented herein indicate that dasatinib can sensitize KRAS mutant CRC tumors to cetuximab and may do so by altering the activity of several key-signaling pathways. Further, these results suggest that signaling via the EGFR and SFKs may be necessary for cell proliferation and survival of KRAS mutant CRC tumors. This data strengthen the rationale for clinical trials in this genetic setting combining cetuximab and dasatinib.
PMCID: PMC3025039  PMID: 20956938
Cetuximab; resistance; KRAS mutation; dasatinib; EGFR; SRC; colorectal cancer

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