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1.  KRAS G13D Mutation and Sensitivity to Cetuximab or Panitumumab in a Colorectal Cancer Cell Line Model 
The treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) includes drugs targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Mutation in codon 12 or 13 in the Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS) gene, downstream of the EGFR, evokes constitutive activation of the RAS/RAF/MAPK signaling pathway and correlates with resistance to anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapies. However, a retrospective study reported that a proportion of patients with the KRAS G13D mutation may respond to cetuximab. A similar analysis for panitumumab was not as conclusive. We sought to determine the sensitivity of CRC cell lines to cetuximab or panitumumab treatment and to investigate the correlation of the KRAS mutational status of the CRC cell lines to the responsiveness to cetuximab or panitumumab.
To determine the responsiveness of CRC cell lines to cetuximab or panitumumab, cell lines were treated with an optimized concentration of each mAb, and proliferation assays were conducted.
After treatment with cetuximab or panitumumab, at the optimum concentration of 8 μg/well, the KRAS G13D mutant cell lines HCT-116, LoVo, and T84 showed intermediate sensitivity to both treatments, between the resistant KRAS G12V mutant cell line SW480 and the sensitive KRAS wild-type cell line LIM1215. One of the G13D cell lines was significantly more sensitive to panitumumab than to cetuximab (P = .02).
The specific KRAS mutation determines the responsiveness to anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody treatment, corresponding to reported clinical observations.
PMCID: PMC3930148  PMID: 24558511
2.  Primary resistance to cetuximab therapy in EGFR FISH-positive colorectal cancer patients 
British Journal of Cancer  2008;99(1):83-89.
The impact of KRAS mutations on cetuximab sensitivity in epidermal growth factor receptor fluorescence in situ hybridisation-positive (EGFR FISH+) metastatic colorectal cancer patients (mCRC) has not been previously investigated. In the present study, we analysed KRAS, BRAF, PI3KCA, MET, and IGF1R in 85 mCRC treated with cetuximab-based therapy in whom EGFR status was known. KRAS mutations (52.5%) negatively affected response only in EGFR FISH+ patients. EGFR FISH+/KRAS mutated had a significantly lower response rate (P=0.04) than EGFR FISH+/KRAS wild type patients. Four EGFR FISH+ patients with KRAS mutations responded to cetuximab therapy. BRAF was mutated in 5.0% of patients and none responded to the therapy. PI3KCA mutations (17.7%) were not associated to cetuximab sensitivity. Patients overexpressing IGF1R (74.3%) had significantly longer survival than patients with low IGF1R expression (P=0.006), with no difference in response rate. IGF1R gene amplification was not detected, and only two (2.6%) patients, both responders, had MET gene amplification. In conclusion, KRAS mutations are associated with cetuximab failure in EGFR FISH+ mCRC, even if it does not preclude response. The rarity of MET and IGF1R gene amplification suggests a marginal role in primary resistance. The potential prognostic implication of IGF1R expression merits further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC2453041  PMID: 18577988
cetuximab; EGFR; KRAS; BRAF; MET; IGF1R
3.  Emergence of KRAS mutations and acquired resistance to anti EGFR therapy in colorectal cancer 
Nature  2012;486(7404):532-536.
A main limitation of therapies that selectively target kinase signaling pathways is the emergence of secondary drug resistance. Cetuximab, a monoclonal antibody that binds the extracellular domain of EGFR, is effective in a subset of KRAS wild type metastatic colorectal cancers1. After an initial response, secondary resistance invariably ensues, thereby limiting the clinical benefit of this drug2. The molecular bases of secondary resistance to cetuximab in colorectal cancer are poorly understood3-8. Here, we show for the first time that molecular alterations (in most instances point mutations) of KRAS are causally associated with the onset of acquired resistance to anti-EGFR treatment in colorectal cancers. Expression of mutant KRAS under the control of its endogenous gene promoter was sufficient to confer cetuximab resistance but resistant cells remained sensitive to combinatorial inhibition of EGFR and MEK. Analysis of metastases from patients who developed resistance to cetuximab or panitumumab showed the emergence of KRAS amplification in one sample and acquisition of secondary KRAS mutations in 60% (6/10) of the cases. KRAS mutant alleles were detectable in the blood of cetuximab treated patients as early as 10 months prior to radiographic documentation of disease progression. In summary, the results identify KRAS mutations as frequent drivers of acquired resistance to cetuximab in colorectal cancers, indicate that the emergence of KRAS mutant clones can be detected non-invasively months prior to radiographic progression and suggest early initiation of a MEK inhibitor as a rational strategy for delaying or reversing drug resistance.
PMCID: PMC3927413  PMID: 22722830
KRAS; colorectal cancer; targeted therapy; acquired resistance
4.  Tumour gene expression predicts response to cetuximab in patients with KRAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer 
British Journal of Cancer  2011;104(3):488-495.
Although it is accepted that metastatic colorectal cancers (mCRCs) that carry activating mutations in KRAS are unresponsive to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibodies, a significant fraction of KRAS wild-type (wt) mCRCs are also unresponsive to anti-EGFR therapy. Genes encoding EGFR ligands amphiregulin (AREG) and epiregulin (EREG) are promising gene expression-based markers but have not been incorporated into a test to dichotomise KRAS wt mCRC patients with respect to sensitivity to anti-EGFR treatment.
We used RT–PCR to test 110 candidate gene expression markers in primary tumours from 144 KRAS wt mCRC patients who received monotherapy with the anti-EGFR antibody cetuximab. Results were correlated with multiple clinical endpoints: disease control, objective response, and progression-free survival (PFS).
Expression of many of the tested candidate genes, including EREG and AREG, strongly associate with all clinical endpoints. Using multivariate analysis with two-layer five-fold cross-validation, we constructed a four-gene predictive classifier. Strikingly, patients below the classifier cutpoint had PFS and disease control rates similar to those of patients with KRAS mutant mCRC.
Gene expression appears to identify KRAS wt mCRC patients who receive little benefit from cetuximab. It will be important to test this model in an independent validation study.
PMCID: PMC3049558  PMID: 21206494
EGFR; colorectal cancer; cetuximab
5.  Impact of KRAS mutation and PTEN expression on cetuximab-treated colorectal cancer 
AIM: To investigate the prognostic value of KRAS mutation, and phosphatase and tensin (PTEN) expression in Chinese metastatic colorectal cancer metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients treated with cetuximab.
METHODS: Ninety Chinese mCRC patients treated with cetuximab were evaluated for KRAS mutation and PTEN protein expression by DNA sequencing of codons 12 and 13 and immunohistochemistry, respectively. We then selected 61 patients treated with cetuximab, either in combination with chemotherapy, or alone as a second-line or third-line regimen to assess whether KRAS mutation or PTEN protein expression is associated with the response and the survival time of mCRC patients treated with cetuximab.
RESULTS: KRAS mutation was found in 30 (33.3%) tumor samples from the 90 patients, and positive PTEN expression was detected in 58 (64.4%) of the 90 patients. Among the 61 patients who were treated with cetuximab as a second-line or third-line regimen, the resistance to cetuximab was found in 22 patients with KRAS mutation and in 39 patients without KRAS mutation, with a response rate of 4.5% and 46.1% respectively (P = 0.001), a shorter median progression-free survival (PFS) time of 14 ± 1.3 wk and 32 ± 2.5 wk respectively (P < 0.001), a median overall survival (OS) time of 11 ± 1.2 mo and 19 ± 1.8 mo respectively (P < 0.001), as well as in 24 patients with negative PTEN expression and in 37 patients with positive PTEN expression respectively (P < 0.001), with a responsive rate of 4.2% and 48.6% respectively, a shorter median PFS survival time of 17 ± 2.0 wk and 28 ± 1.9 wk respectively (P = 0.07), and a median OS time of 11 ± 1.3 mo and 18 ± 1.9 mo respectively (P = 0.004). Combined KRAS mutation and PTEN expression analysis showed that the PFS and OS time of patients with two favorable prognostic factors were longer than those of patients with one favorable prognostic factor or no favorable prognostic factor (P < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: KRAS mutation and PTEN protein expression are significantly correlated with the response rate and survival time of Chinese mCRC patients treated with cetuximab.
PMCID: PMC3001981  PMID: 21155011
Cetuximab; Metastatic colorectal cancer; KRAS mutation; Phosphatase and tensin protein expression
6.  Multi-Determinants Analysis of Molecular Alterations for Predicting Clinical Benefit to EGFR-Targeted Monoclonal Antibodies in Colorectal Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7287.
KRAS mutations occur in 35–45% of metastatic colorectal cancers (mCRC) and preclude responsiveness to EGFR-targeted therapy with cetuximab or panitumumab. However, less than 20% patients displaying wild-type KRAS tumors achieve objective response. Alterations in other effectors downstream of the EGFR, such as BRAF, and deregulation of the PIK3CA/PTEN pathway have independently been found to give rise to resistance. We present a comprehensive analysis of KRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA mutations, and PTEN expression in mCRC patients treated with cetuximab or panitumumab, with the aim of clarifying the relative contribution of these molecular alterations to resistance.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We retrospectively analyzed objective tumor response, progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) together with the mutational status of KRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA and expression of PTEN in 132 tumors from cetuximab or panitumumab treated mCRC patients. Among the 106 non-responsive patients, 74 (70%) had tumors with at least one molecular alteration in the four markers. The probability of response was 51% (22/43) among patients with no alterations, 4% (2/47) among patients with 1 alteration, and 0% (0/24) for patients with ≥2 alterations (p<0.0001). Accordingly, PFS and OS were increasingly worse for patients with tumors harboring none, 1, or ≥2 molecular alteration(s) (p<0.001).
When expression of PTEN and mutations of KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA are concomitantly ascertained, up to 70% of mCRC patients unlikely to respond to anti-EGFR therapies can be identified. We propose to define as ‘quadruple negative’, the CRCs lacking alterations in KRAS, BRAF, PTEN and PIK3CA. Comprehensive molecular dissection of the EGFR signaling pathways should be considered to select mCRC patients for cetuximab- or panitumumab-based therapies.
PMCID: PMC2750753  PMID: 19806185
7.  Beyond KRAS: perspectives on new potential markers of intrinsic and acquired resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors in metastatic colorectal cancer 
The monoclonal antibodies cetuximab and panitumumab, directed against the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), are licensed for the treatment of KRAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Such ‘molecular restriction’ derived from post-hoc analyses of randomized trials and from other retrospective series all indicate how tumors bearing KRAS (v-Ki-ras2 Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog) mutations are resistant to EGFR inhibition. Even if highly sensitive for nonresponse, KRAS testing is not very specific. In fact, a limited but still considerable proportion of KRAS wild-type patients rapidly progress on treatment with an EGFR inhibitor. New potential molecular determinants of benefit from such treatment are under investigation and may further refine the selection of patients. Pharmacogenomic analyses and translational studies are also ongoing for exploring the field of acquired resistance to anti-EGFRs, since all patients eventually progress. New biological data are awaited for optimizing the use of molecular agents in colorectal cancer and for identifying promising targets that could allow to better understand and, potentially, overcome mechanisms of primary or secondary resistance to EGFR inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3126002  PMID: 21789120
colorectal cancer; epidermal growth factor receptor; cetuximab; panitumumab; predictive factors
8.  Predictive role of multiple gene alterations in response to cetuximab in metastatic colorectal cancer: A single center study 
KRAS mutations negatively affect outcome after treatment with cetuximab in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients. As only 20% of KRAS wild type (WT) patients respond to cetuximab it is possible that other mutations, constitutively activating the EGFR pathway, are present in the non-responding KRAS WT patients. We retrospectively analyzed objective tumor response rate, (ORR) progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) with respect to the mutational status of KRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA and PTEN expression in mCRC patients treated with a cetuximab-based regimen.
67 mCRC patients were enrolled onto the study. DNA was extracted from paraffin-embedded sections derived from primary or metastatic lesions. Exon 2 of KRAS and exon 15 of BRAF were analyzed by direct sequencing, PIK3CA was evaluated by pyrosequencing and PTEN expression by immunohistochemistry.
BRAF and PIK3CA mutations were independently associated with worse PFS (p = 0.006 and p = 0.028, respectively) and OS (p = 0.008 and p = 0.029, respectively). No differences in clinical outcome were found between patients who were positive or negative for PTEN expression. Conversely, patients negative for KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA mutations were characterized by significantly better ORR, PFS and OS than patients with at least one of these mutations.
BRAF and PIK3CA mutations would seem to be independent predictors of anti-EGFR therapy effectiveness and could be taken into consideration during treatment decision making.
PMCID: PMC3404915  PMID: 22569004
Metastatic colorectal cancer; Cetuximab; KRAS; BRAF; PIK3CA; PTEN
9.  Low Percentage of KRAS Mutations Revealed by Locked Nucleic Acid Polymerase Chain Reaction: Implications for Treatment of Metastatic Colorectal Cancer 
Molecular Medicine  2012;18(1):1519-1526.
Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) is frequently characterized by the presence of mutations of the KRAS oncogene, which are generally associated with a poor response to treatment with anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (anti-EGFR) monoclonal antibodies. With the methods currently used, a case is classified as KRAS-mutated when approximately 20% of the cells bear an activating KRAS mutation. These considerations raise the question of whether cells with a mutated KRAS can be found in mCRC cases classified as KRAS wild-type when more sensitive methods are used. In addition, the issue arises of whether these mCRC cases with low proportion of KRAS-mutated cells could account at least in part for the therapeutic failure of anti-EGFR therapies that occur in 40–60% of cases classified as KRAS wild type. In this study, we compared the classical assays with a very sensitive test, a locked nucleic acid (LNA) polymerase chain reaction (PCR), capable of detecting KRAS-mutated alleles at extremely low frequency (detection sensitivity limit 0.25% mutated DNA/wild-type DNA). By analyzing a cohort of 213 mCRC patients for KRAS mutations, we found a 20.6% discordance between the sequencing/TheraScreen methods and the LNA-PCR. Indeed, 44 mCRC patients initially considered KRAS wild type were reclassified as KRAS mutated by using the LNA-PCR test. These patients were more numerous among individuals displaying a clinical failure to anti-EGFR therapies. Failure to respond to these biological treatments occurred even in the absence of mutations in other EGFR pathway components such as BRAF.
PMCID: PMC3576474  PMID: 23255073
10.  Oncogenic Kras promotes chemotherapy-induced growth factor shedding via ADAM17 
Cancer research  2010;71(3):1071-1080.
Oncogenic mutations in Kras occur in 40%-45% of patients with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC). We have previously shown that chemotherapy acutely activates ADAM17 resulting in growth factor shedding, growth factor receptor activation and drug resistance in CRC tumours. In this study, we examined the role of mutant Kras in regulating growth factor shedding and ADAM17 activity using isogenic Kras mutant (MT) and wild type (WT) HCT116 CRC cells. Significantly higher levels of TGF-α and VEGF were shed from KrasMT HCT116 cells, both basally and following chemotherapy treatment, and this correlated with increased pErk1/2 levels and ADAM17 activity. Inhibition of Kras, MEK1/2 or Erk1/2 inhibition abrogated chemotherapy-induced ADAM17 activity and TGF-α shedding. Moreover, we found that these effects were not drug- or cell line-specific. In addition, MEK1/2 inhibition in KrasMT xenografts resulted in significant decreases in ADAM17 activity and growth factor shedding in vivo, which correlated with dramatically attenuated tumour growth. Furthermore, we found that MEK1/2 inhibition significantly induced apoptosis both alone and when combined with chemotherapy in KrasMT cells. Importantly, we found that sensitivity to MEK1/2 inhibition was ADAM17-dependent in vitro and in vivo. Collectively, our findings indicate that oncogenic Kras regulates ADAM17 activity and thereby growth factor ligand shedding in a MEK1/2/Erk1/2-dependent manner and that KrasMT CRC tumours are vulnerable to MEK1/2 inhibitors, at least in part due to their dependency on ADAM17 activity.
PMCID: PMC3073126  PMID: 21148749
Kras; MEK1/2; ADAM17; growth factor; colorectal cancer
11.  Epidermal growth factor receptor cooperates with Src family kinases in acquired resistance to cetuximab 
Cancer biology & therapy  2009;8(8):696-703.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a receptor tyrosine kinase that plays a major role in oncogenesis. Cetuximab is an EGFR-blocking antibody that is FDA approved for use in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Although cetuximab has shown strong clinical benefit for a subset of cancer patients, most become refractory to cetuximab therapy. We reported that cetuximab-resistant NSCLC line NCI-H226 cells have increased steady-state expression and activity of EGFR secondary to altered trafficking/degradation and this increase in EGFR expression and activity lead to hyper-activation of HER3 and down stream signals to survival. We now present data that Src family kinases (SFKs) are highly activated in cetuximab-resistant cells and enhance EGFR activation of HER3 and PI(3)K/Akt. Studies using the Src kinase inhibitor dasatinib decreased HER3 and PI(3)K/Akt activity. In addition, cetuximab-resistant cells were resensitized to cetuximab when treated with dasatinib. These results indicate that SFKs and EGFR cooperate in acquired resistance to cetuximab and suggest a rationale for clinical strategies that investigate combinatorial therapy directed at both the EGFR and SFKs in patients with acquired resistance to cetuximab.
PMCID: PMC2895567  PMID: 19276677
EGFR; cetuximab; resistance; Src-family kinases; dasatinib
12.  A gene expression predictor of response to EGFR-targeted therapy stratifies progression-free survival to cetuximab in KRAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:145.
The anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody cetuximab is used in metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC), and predicting responsive patients garners great interest, due to the high cost of therapy. Mutations in the KRAS gene occur in ~40% of CRC and are a negative predictor of response to cetuximab. However, many KRAS-wildtype patients do not benefit from cetuximab. We previously published a gene expression predictor of sensitivity to erlotinib, an EGFR inhibitor. The purpose of this study was to determine if this predictor could identify KRAS-wildtype CRC patients who will benefit from cetuximab therapy.
Microarray data from 80 metastatic CRC patients subsequently treated with cetuximab were extracted from the study by Khambata-Ford et al. The study included KRAS status, response, and PFS for each patient. The gene expression data were scaled and analyzed using our predictive model. An improved predictive model of response was identified by removing features in the 180-gene predictor that introduced noise.
Forty-three of eighty patients were identified as harboring wildtype-KRAS. When the model was applied to these patients, the predicted-sensitive group had significantly longer PFS than the predicted-resistant group (median 88 days vs. 56 days; mean 117 days vs. 63 days, respectively, p = 0.008). Kaplan-Meier curves were also significantly improved in the predicted-sensitive group (p = 0.0059, HR = 0.4109. The model was simplified to 26 of the original 180 genes and this further improved stratification of PFS (median 147 days vs. 56.5 days in the predicted sensitive and resistant groups, respectively, p < 0.0001). However, the simplified model will require further external validation, as features were selected based on their correlation to PFS in this dataset.
Our model of sensitivity to EGFR inhibition stratified PFS following cetuximab in KRAS-wildtype CRC patients. This study represents the first true external validation of a molecular predictor of response to cetuximab in KRAS-WT metastatic CRC. Our model may hold clinical utility for identifying patients responsive to cetuximab and may therefore minimize toxicity and cost while maximizing benefit.
PMCID: PMC2687459  PMID: 19439077
13.  Evolving role of cetuximab in the treatment of colorectal cancer 
In recent years, the monoclonal epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeting antibody cetuximab was introduced into systemic therapy of colorectal cancer and gained an established role in the treatment of this disease. Cetuximab was shown to be active as a single agent in chemorefractory metastatic disease as well as in combination with varying chemotherapies. Recently, randomized trials demonstrated the activity of cetuximab combinations in the first-line setting of metastatic colorectal cancer. Interestingly, the activity of cetuximab was restricted to patients with KRAS wildtype tumors, as was seen with panitumumab, another EGFR antibody. While 60%–70% of tumors harbor KRAS wildtype genes, 30%–40% of tumors express oncogenic KRAS with mutations in codons 12 and 13 causing constitutive activation of signaling cascades downstream of EGFR and resistance to EGFR blockade. Since proof of KRAS wildtype status became a prerequisite for cetuximab treatment, KRAS testing is being established throughout the world. Future trials will address the question which part of the KRAS wildtype cohort will benefit from EGFR inhibition and how to identify those patients. Additionally, new strategies for treatment of KRAS mutated tumors are strongly needed. Recent developments and future strategies will be summarized.
PMCID: PMC3004666  PMID: 21188126
cetuximab; colorectal cancer; KRAS
14.  KRAS mutation detection by high-resolution melting analysis significantly predicts clinical benefit of cetuximab in metastatic colorectal cancer 
British Journal of Cancer  2012;107(4):626-631.
Anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibodies are restricted to KRAS wild-type (WT) metastatic colorectal cancers (mCRCs), usually identified by direct sequencing, that may yield false negative results because of genetic heterogeneity within the tumour. We evaluated the efficiency of high-resolution melting analysis (HRMA) in identifying KRAS-mutant (MUT) tumours.
We considered 50 mCRC patients scored as KRAS-WT by direct sequencing and treated with cetuximab-containing chemotherapy, and tested the correlations between HRMA findings and response rate (RR), progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS).
Aberrant melting curves were detected in four (8%) cases; gene cloning confirmed these mutations. Response rate (RR) of HRMA KRAS-WT patients was 28.3%. There was no response in HRMA KRAS-MUT patients. Disease control rate (responsive plus stable disease) was 58.7% in HRMA KRAS-WT patients and 25% in HRMA KRAS-MUT patients. There was no correlation between HRMA KRAS status and RR (P=0.287) or disease control (P=0.219). Median PFS (4.8 vs 2.3 months; hazard ratio (HR)=0.29, P=0.02) and OS (11.0 vs 2.7 months; HR=0.11, P=0.03) were significantly longer for the HRMA KRAS-WT than for HRMA KRAS-MUT patients.
High-resolution melting analysis identified 8% more KRAS-MUT patients not responding to cetuximab-containing regimens, suggesting that HRMA may be more effective than direct sequencing in selecting patients for anti-EGFR antibodies.
PMCID: PMC3419946  PMID: 22805329
colorectal cancer; cetuximab; KRAS; HRMA; direct sequencing
15.  Antitumoral Efficacy of the Protease Inhibitor Gabexate Mesilate in Colon Cancer Cells Harbouring KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA Mutations 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41347.
The employment of anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antibodies represents a backbone of the therapeutic options for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). However, this therapy is poorly effective or ineffective in unselected patients. Mutations in KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA genes have recently emerged as the best predictive factors of low/absent response to EGFR-targeted therapy. Due to the need for efficacious treatment options for mCRC patients bearing these mutations, in this short report we examined the antitumoral activity of the protease inhibitor gabexate mesilate, alone and in combination with the anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody cetuximab, in a panel of human CRC cell lines harbouring a different expression pattern of wild-type/mutated KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA genes. Results obtained showed that gabexate mesilate significantly inhibited the growth, invasive potential and tumour-induced angiogenesis in all the CRC cells employed in this study (including those ones harbouring dual KRAS/PIK3CA or BRAF/PIK3CA mutation), while cetuximab affected these parameters only in CRC cells with KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA wild-type. Notably, the antitumoral efficacy of gabexate mesilate and cetuximab in combination was found to be not superior than that observed with gabexate mesilate as single agent. Overall, these preliminary findings suggest that gabexate mesilate could represent a promising therapeutic option for mCRC patients, particularly for those harbouring KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA mutations, either as mono-therapy or in addition to standard chemotherapy regimens. Further studies to better elucidate gabexate mesilate mechanism of action in CRC cells are therefore warranted.
PMCID: PMC3404056  PMID: 22911782
16.  Expression of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Detected by Cetuximab Indicates Its Efficacy to Inhibit In Vitro and In Vivo Proliferation of Colorectal Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66302.
Cetuximab is a chimeric mouse–human monoclonal antibody that targets the human epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). However, EGFR expression determined by immunohistochemistry does not predict clinical outcomes of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients treated with cetuximab. Therefore, we evaluated the correlation between EGFR levels detected by cetuximab and drug sensitivities of CRC cell lines (Caco-2, WiDR, SW480, and HCT116) and the A431 epidermoid carcinoma cell line. We used flow cytometry (FCM) to detect EGFR-binding of biotinylated cetuximab on the cell surface. Subcloned cell lines showing the highest and lowest EGFR expression levels were chosen for further study. Cytotoxic assays were used to determine differential responses to cetuximab. Xenograft models treated with cetuximab intraperitoneally to assess sensitivity to cetuximab. Strong responses to cetuximab were specifically exhibited by subcloned cells with high EGFR expression levels. Furthermore, cetuximab inhibited the growth of tumors in xenograft models with high or low EGFR expression levels by 35% and 10%–20%, respectively. We conclude that detection of EGFR expression by cetuximab promises to provide a novel, sensitive, and specific method for predicting the sensitivity of CRC to cetuximab.
PMCID: PMC3688890  PMID: 23824671
17.  Dasatinib blocks cetuximab- and radiation-induced nuclear translocation of the epidermal growth factor receptor in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma 
Background and Purpose
The aberrant expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has been linked to the etiology of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The first major phase III trial combining cetuximab with radiation confirmed a strong survival advantage. However, both cetuximab and radiation can promote EGFR translocation to the nucleus where it enhances resistance to both of these modalities. In this report we sought to determine how to block cetuximab and radiation–induced translocation of EGFR to the nucleus in HNSCC cell lines.
Material and Methods
We utilized three established HNSCC cell lines, SCC1, SCC6 and SCC1483 and measured nuclear translocation of EGFR after treatment with cetuximab or radiation. We then utilized dasatinib (BMS-354825), a potent, orally bioavailable inhibitor of several tyrosine kinases, including the Src Family Kinases, to determine if SFKs blockade could abrogate cetuximab and radiation-induced nuclear EGFR translocation.
Cetuximab and radiation treatment of all three HNSCC lines lead to translocation of the EGFR to the nucleus. Blockade of SFKs abrogated cetuximab and radiation-induced EGFR translocation to the nucleus.
The data presented in this report suggests that both cetuximab and radiation can promote EGFR translocation to the nucleus and dasatinib can inhibit this process. Collectively these findings may suggest that dasatinib can limit EGFR translocation to the nucleus and may enhance radiotherapy plus cetuximab in HNSCC.
PMCID: PMC2974772  PMID: 20667610
EGFR; cetuximab; radiation; Src family kinases; dasatinib; head and neck cancer
18.  Cten Is Targeted by Kras Signalling to Regulate Cell Motility in the Colon and Pancreas 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20919.
CTEN/TNS4 is an oncogene in colorectal cancer (CRC) which enhances cell motility although the mechanism of Cten regulation is unknown. We found an association between high Cten expression and KRAS/BRAF mutation in a series of CRC cell lines (p = 0.03) and hypothesised that Kras may regulate Cten. To test this, Kras was knocked-down (using small interfering (si)RNA) in CRC cell lines SW620 and DLD1 (high Cten expressors and mutant for KRAS). In each cell line, Kras knockdown was mirrored by down-regulation of Cten Since Kras signals through Braf, we tested the effect of Kras knockdown in CRC cell line Colo205 (which shows high Cten expression and is mutant for BRAF but wild type for KRAS). Cten levels were unaffected by Kras knockdown whilst Braf knockdown resulted in reduced Cten expression suggesting that Kras signals via Braf to regulate Cten. Quantification of Cten mRNA and protein analysis following proteasome inhibition suggested that regulation was of Cten transcription. Kras knockdown inhibited cell motility. To test whether this could be mediated through Cten, SW620 cells were co-transfected with Kras specific siRNAs and a Cten expression vector. Restoring Cten expression was able to restore cell motility despite Kras knockdown (transwell migration and wounding assay, p<0.001 for both). Since KRAS is mutated in many cancers, we investigated whether this relationship could be demonstrated in other tumour models. The experiments were repeated in the pancreatic cancer cell lines Colo357 & PSN-1(both high Cten expressors and mutant for KRAS). In both cell lines, Kras was shown to regulate Cten and forced expression of Cten was able to rescue loss of cell motility following Kras knockdown in PSN-1 (transwell migration assay, p<0.001). We conclude that, in the colon and pancreas, Cten is a downstream target of Kras and may be a mechanism through which Kras regulates of cell motility.
PMCID: PMC3116852  PMID: 21698197
19.  Nuclear EGFR Contributes to Acquired Resistance to Cetuximab 
Oncogene  2009;28(43):3801-3813.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a ubiquitously expressed receptor tyrosine kinase involved in the etiology of several human cancers. Cetuximab is an EGFR blocking-antibody that has been approved for the treatment of patients with cancers of the head and neck (HNSCC) and metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Previous reports have shown that EGFR translocation to the nucleus is associated with cell proliferation. Here we investigated mechanisms of acquired resistance to cetuximab using a model derived from the non-small cell lung cancer line H226. We demonstrated that cetuximab-resistant cells overexpress HER family ligands including epidermal growth factor (EGF), amphiregulin (AR), heparin-binding EGF (HB-EGF) and β-cellulin. Overexpression of these ligands is associated with the nuclear translocation of the EGFR and this process was mediated by the Src family kinases (SFK). Treatment of cetuximab-resistant cells with the SFK inhibitor, dasatinib, resulted in loss of nuclear EGFR, increased membrane expression of the EGFR and re-sensitization to cetuximab. In addition, expression of a nuclear localization sequence tagged EGFR in cetuximab-sensitive cells increased resistance to cetuximab both in vitro and in mouse xenografts. Collectively, these data suggest that nuclear expression of EGFR may be an important molecular determinant of resistance to cetuximab therapy and provides a rationale for investigating nuclear EGFR as a biomarker for cetuximab response. Further, these data suggest a rationale for the design of clinical trials that examine the value of treating patients with cetuximab-resistant tumors with inhibitors of SFKs in combination with cetuximab.
PMCID: PMC2900381  PMID: 19684613
EGFR; nuclear; cetuximab; resistance; Src-family kinases; dasatinib
20.  Oxaliplatin-Based Chemotherapy Is More Beneficial in KRAS Mutant than in KRAS Wild-Type Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e86789.
To identify better regimens in currently available chemotherapy would be beneficial to KRAS mutant metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients because they have fewer treatment options than KRAS wild-type mCRC patients. Clinicopathologic features and overall survival (OS) of KRAS mutant and wild-type mCRC patients who had used oxaliplatin-based, irinotecan-based, bevacizumab-based, as well as cetuximab-based regimens were compared to those who had never-used oxaliplatin-based, irinotecan-based, bevacizumab-based, as well as cetuximab-based regimens respectively. Between 2007 and 2012, a total of 394 mCRC patients, in whom 169 KRAS mutant and 225 KRAS wild-type, were enrolled. In KRAS mutant patients who had used oxaliplatin-based regimens (N = 131), the OS was significantly longer than that in KRAS mutant patients who had never-used oxaliplatin-based regimens (N = 38). The OS was 28.8 months [95% confidence interval (CI): 23.2–34.4] in KRAS mutant patients who had used oxaliplatin-based regimens versus 17.8 months [95% CI: 6.5–29.1] in KRAS mutant patients who had never-used oxaliplatin-based regimens (P = 0.026). Notably, OS in KRAS wild-type mCRC patients who had used oxaliplatin-based regimens (N = 185) was not significantly longer than that in KRAS wild-type mCRC patients who had never-used oxaliplatin-based regimens (N = 40) (P = 0.25). Furthermore, the OS in KRAS mutant patients who had used either irinotecan-based, bevacizumab-based or cetuximab-based regimens was not significantly different than that in KRAS mutant patients who had never-used either irinotecan-based, bevacizumab-based or cetuximab-based regimens respectively. In multivariate analyses, patients who had used oxaliplatin-based regimens remains an independent prognostic factor for longer OS in KRAS mutant mCRC patients. In conclusion, oxaliplatin-based regimens are more beneficial in KRAS mutant than in KRAS wild-type mCRC patients.
PMCID: PMC3913571  PMID: 24505265
21.  KRAS Mutation Detection in Paired Frozen and Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded (FFPE) Colorectal Cancer Tissues 
KRAS mutation has been unambiguously identified as a marker of resistance to cetuximab-based treatment in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients. However, most studies of KRAS mutation analysis have been performed using homogenously archived CRC specimens, and studies that compare freshly frozen specimens and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) specimens of CRC are lacking. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the impact of tissue preservation on the determination of KRAS mutational status. A series of 131 mCRC fresh-frozen tissues were first analyzed using both high-resolution melting (HRM) and direct sequencing. KRAS mutations were found in 47/131 (35.8%) using both approaches. Out of the 47 samples that were positive for KRAS mutations, 33 had available matched FFPE specimens. Using HRM, 2/33 (6%) demonstrated suboptimal template amplification, and 2/33 (6%) expressed an erroneous wild-type KRAS profile. Using direct sequencing, 6/33 (18.1%) displayed a wild-type KRAS status, and 3/33 (9.1%) showed discordant mutations. Finally, the detection of KRAS mutations was lower among the FFPE samples compared with the freshly frozen samples, demonstrating that tissue processing clearly impacts the accuracy of KRAS genotyping.
PMCID: PMC3116185  PMID: 21686179
genotyping; KRAS; fixative
22.  Efficacy of first-line systemic treatment in correlation with BRAF V600E and different KRAS mutations in metastatic colorectal cancer – a single institution retrospective analysis 
Radiology and Oncology  2011;45(4):285-291.
KRAS mutation status in codons 12 and 13 is recognized as a predictive factor for resistance to anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies. Despite having a wild type KRAS (wt-KRAS), not all patients with wt-KRAS respond to anti-EGFR antibody treatment. Additional mechanisms of resistance may activate mutations of the other main EGFR effectors pathway. Consequently, other molecular markers in colorectal cancer are needed to be evaluated to predict the response to therapy.
Patients and methods
In this retrospective study, objective responses (OR), time to progression (TTP), overall survival (OS) were analyzed in 176 metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients treated with first-line chemotherapy in combination with monoclonal antibodies in respect of KRAS status in codons 12 and 13 and BRAF mutational status.
The KRAS mutations were found in 63 patients (35.8 %), the KRAS mutation in codon 12 in 53 patients (30.1%) and the KRAS mutation in codon 13 in 10 patients (5.7%). The BRAF V600E mutation was detected in 13 of 176 patients (7.4%). In the subgroup of mCRC patients having wt-KRAS and wild type BRAF (wt-BRAF), the objective response rates were higher (OR 54.0% ,CR 14.7%, PR 39.3%) than in the patients with wt-KRAS and mt-BRAF (OR 38.5%,CR 15.4%, PR 23.1%), the difference was not statistically significant (p= 0.378). Median OS in patients with wt-KRAS wt-BRAF, and in patients with wt-KRAS mt-BRAF, was 107.4 months and 45 months, respectively. The difference was statistically significant (p= 0.042). TTP in patients with wt-KRAS wt-BRAF, and in patients with wt-KRAS mt-BRAF, was 16 months and 12 months, respectively. The difference was not statistically significant (p= 0.558).
Patients with BRAF V600E mutation have statistically significantly worse prognosis than the patients with wt-BRAF and progress earlier during treatment. The definitive role of the BRAF V600E mutation as a prognostic and predictive factor for the response to anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies needs to be analyzed in large prospective clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC3423757  PMID: 22933967
metastatic colorectal cancer; KRAS; BRAF; prognostic factors
23.  KRAS codon 61, 146 and BRAF mutations predict resistance to cetuximab plus irinotecan in KRAS codon 12 and 13 wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer 
British Journal of Cancer  2009;101(4):715-721.
KRAS codons 12 and 13 mutations predict resistance to anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies (moAbs) in metastatic colorectal cancer. Also, BRAF V600E mutation has been associated with resistance. Additional KRAS mutations are described in CRC.
We investigated the role of KRAS codons 61 and 146 and BRAF V600E mutations in predicting resistance to cetuximab plus irinotecan in a cohort of KRAS codons 12 and 13 wild-type patients.
Among 87 KRAS codons 12 and 13 wild-type patients, KRAS codons 61 and 146 were mutated in 7 and 1 case, respectively. None of mutated patients responded vs 22 of 68 wild type (P=0.096). Eleven patients were not evaluable. KRAS mutations were associated with shorter progression-free survival (PFS, HR: 0.46, P=0.028). None of 13 BRAF-mutated patients responded vs 24 of 74 BRAF wild type (P=0.016). BRAF mutation was associated with a trend towards shorter PFS (HR: 0.59, P=0.073). In the subgroup of BRAF wild-type patients, KRAS codons 61/146 mutations determined a lower response rate (0 vs 37%, P=0.047) and worse PFS (HR: 0.45, P=0.023). Patients bearing KRAS or BRAF mutations had poorer response rate (0 vs 37%, P=0.0005) and PFS (HR: 0.51, P=0.006) compared with KRAS and BRAF wild-type patients.
Assessing KRAS codons 61/146 and BRAF V600E mutations might help optimising the selection of the candidate patients to receive anti-EGFR moAbs.
PMCID: PMC2736831  PMID: 19603018
colorectal cancer; cetuximab; KRAS; BRAF
24.  Mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase-1 (MKP-1) impairs the response to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antibody cetuximab in metastatic colorectal cancer patients 
British Journal of Cancer  2010;102(7):1137-1144.
The validation of KRAS mutations as a negative marker of response to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antibodies has meant a seminal advance towards treatment individualisation of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. However, as a KRAS wild-type status does not guarantee a response to anti-EGFR antibodies, a current challenge is the identification of other biomarkers of response. On the basis of pre-clinical evidence, we hypothesised that mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase-1 (MKP-1), a phosphatase that inactivates MAPKs, could be a mediator of resistance to anti-EGFR antibodies.
Tumour specimens from 48 metastatic CRC patients treated with cetuximab-based chemotherapy were evaluated for KRAS and BRAF mutational status and MKP-1 expression as assessed by immunohistochemistry.
As expected, clinical benefit was confined to wild-type KRAS and BRAF patients. Mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase-1 was overexpressed in 16 patients (33%) and was not associated with patient baseline clinicopathological characteristics and KRAS mutational status. All patients with BRAF mutations (n=3) had MKP-1 overexpression. Among KRAS wild-type patients, MKP-1 overexpressors had a 7% response rate (RR), whereas patients not overexpressing MKP-1 had a 44% RR (P=0.03). Moreover, median time to progression was significantly longer in MKP-1 non-overexpressing patients (32 vs 13 weeks, P=0.009).
These results support the concept of MKP-1 as a promising negative marker of response to cetuximab-based treatment in CRC patients with wild-type KRAS.
PMCID: PMC2853100  PMID: 20234366
MKP-1; cetuximab; CRC; RAS; molecular marker
25.  Analysis of the anti-tumor effect of cetuximab using protein kinetics and mouse xenograft models 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:140.
The binding of EGFR and its ligands leads to autophosphorylation of receptor tyrosine kinase as well as subsequent activation of signal transduction pathways that are involved in regulating cellular proliferation, differentiation, and survival. An EGFR inhibitor, cetuximab binds to EGFR and consequently blocks a variety of cellular processes. KRAS/BRAF mutations are known to be associated with a low response rate to cetuximab. In the present study, to clarify the anti-tumor mechanisms of cetuximab, we evaluated the KRAS/BRAF status, phosphorylation level of the EGFR pathway, and the tumor suppression effect in vivo, using a human colon cancer cell line HT29, which exhibited the highest EGFR expression in response to the cetuximab therapy among the 6 colorectal cancer cell lines tested.
The conventional growth suppression assay did not work efficiently with cetuximab. EGF, TGF-α, and IGF activated the EGFR/MAPK cell signaling pathway by initiating the phosphorylation of EGFR. Cetuximab partially inhibited the EGFR/MAPK pathway induced by EGF, TGF-α, and IGF. However, cetuximab exposure induced the EGFR, MEK, and ERK1/2 phosphorylation by itself. Mouse xenograft tumor growth was significantly inhibited by cetuximab and both cetuximab-treated and -untreated xenograft specimens exhibited phosphorylations of the EGFR pathway proteins.
We have confirmed that cetuximab inhibited the EGFR/MAPK pathway and reduced tumor growth in the xenografts while the remaining tumor showed EGFR pathway activation. These results suggest that: ( i ) The effect of cetuximab in growth signaling is not sufficient to induce complete growth suppression in vitro; ( ii ) time-course monitoring may be necessary to evaluate the effect of cetuximab because EGFR signaling is transmitted in a minute order; and ( iii ) cetuximab treatment may have cells acquired resistant selectively survived in the heterogeneous cancer population.
PMCID: PMC3118158  PMID: 21554739

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