To determine the proportion of lung adenocarcinomas from East Asian never-smokers who harbor known oncogenic driver mutations.
Patients and Methods
In this surgical series, 52 resected lung adenocarcinomas from never-smokers (< 100 cigarettes in a lifetime) at a single institution (Fudan University, Shanghai, China) were analyzed concurrently for mutations in EGFR, KRAS, NRAS, HRAS, HER2, BRAF, ALK, PIK3CA, TP53 and LKB1.
Forty-one tumors harbored EGFR mutations, three harbored EML4-ALK fusions, two harbored HER2 insertions, and one harbored a KRAS mutation. All mutations were mutually exclusive. Thus, 90% (47 of 52; 95% CI, 0.7896 to 0.9625) of lung adenocarcinomas from never-smokers were found to harbor well-known oncogenic mutations in just four genes. No BRAF, NRAS, HRAS, or LKB1 mutations were detected, while 15 had TP53 mutations. Four tumors contained PIK3CA mutations, always together with EGFR mutations.
To our knowledge, this study represents the first comprehensive and concurrent analysis of major recurrent oncogenic mutations found in a large cohort of lung adenocarcinomas from East Asian never-smokers. Since drugs are now available that target mutant EGFR, HER2, and ALK, respectively, this result indicates that prospective mutation testing in these patients should successfully assign a targeted therapy in the majority of cases.
Our previous study revealed that 90% (47 of 52; 95% CI: 0.79–0.96) of Chinese never-smokers with lung adenocarcinoma harbor known oncogenic driver mutations in just four genes: EGFR, ALK, HER2, and KRAS. Here, we examined the status of known driver mutations specifically in female never-smokers with lung adenocarcinoma.
Tumors were genotyped for mutations in EGFR, KRAS, ALK, HER2, and BRAF. Data on age, stage, tumor differentiation, histological subtypes, and molecular alterations were recorded from 349 resected lung adenocarcinomas from female never-smokers. We further compared the clinicopathological parameters according to mutational status of these genes.
Two hundred and sixty-six (76.2%) tumors harbored EGFR mutations, 16 (4.6%) HER2 mutations, 15 (4.3%) EML4-ALK fusions, seven (2.0%) KRAS mutations, and two (0.6%) BRAF mutations. In univariate analysis, patients harboring EGFR mutations were significantly older (p<0.001), whereas patients harboring HER2 mutations were significantly younger (p=0.036). Higher prevalence of KRAS (p=0.028) and HER2 (p=0.021) mutations was found in invasive mucinous adenocarcinoma (IMA). The frequency of EGFR mutations was positively correlated with acinar predominant tumors (p=0.002). Multivariate analysis revealed that older age at diagnosis (p=0.013) and acinar predominant subtype (p=0.005) were independent predictors of EGFR mutations. Independent predictors of HER2 mutations included younger age (p=0.030) and IMA (p=0.017). IMA (p=0.006) and poor differentiation (p=0.028) were independently associated with KRAS mutations.
The frequency of driver mutations in never-smoking female lung adenocarcinoma varies with histological subtypes and age at diagnosis. These data have implications for both clinical trial design and therapeutic strategies.
Lung adenocarcinoma; Female; Never smoker; EGFR mutation; HER2 mutation; Acinar; Mucinous; Age
We previously showed that 90% (47 of 52; 95% CI, 0.79 to 0.96) of lung adenocarcinomas from East Asian never-smokers harbored well-known oncogenic mutations in just four genes: EGFR, HER2, ALK, and KRAS. Here, we sought to extend these findings to more samples and identify driver alterations in tumors negative for these mutations.
We have collected and analyzed 202 resected lung adenocarcinomas from never smokers seen at Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center. Since mutations were mutually exclusive in the first 52 examined, we determined the status of EGFR, KRAS, HER2, ALK, and BRAF in stepwise fashion as previously described. Samples negative for mutations in these 5 genes were subsequently examined for known ROS1 fusions by RT-PCR and direct sequencing.
152 tumors (75.3%) harbored EGFR mutations, 12 (6%) had HER2 mutations, 10 (5%) had ALK fusions all involving EML4 as the 5′ partner, 4 (2%) had KRAS mutations, and 2 (1%) harbored ROS1 fusions. No BRAF mutation were detected.
The vast majority (176 of 202; 87.1%, 95% CI: 0.82 to 0.91) of lung adenocarcinomas from never smokers harbor mutant kinases sensitive to available TKIs. Interestingly, patients with EGFR mutant patients tend to be older than those without EGFR mutations (58.3 Vs 54.3, P = 0.016) and patient without any known oncogenic driver tend to be diagnosed at a younger age (52.3 Vs 57.9, P = 0.013). Collectively, these data indicate that the majority of never smokers with lung adenocarcinoma could benefit from treatment with a specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor.
The EML4–anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) translocation is a recognized oncogenic driver in non-small cell lung cancer. We investigated immunohistochemistry (IHC) screening with fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH) confirmation for ALK detection and estimated the prevalence of ALK-positivity in our patient cohort of never smokers, together with differences in clinical outcomes and prognostic factors for patients with ALK-positive and ALK-negative tumors.
We designed a three-phase study (training, validation, and testing) in 300 never-smokers with lung adenocarcinoma from the observational Mayo Clinic Lung Cancer Cohort. Tumor samples were tested using IHC and FISH, and concordance between the methods was assessed. Clinical outcomes were assessed via 5-year progression or recurrence-free survival from diagnosis. Prognostic factors for ALK-positive tumors and metastases were also investigated.
ALK-positive patients were significantly (p<0·05) younger and had higher-grade tumors than ALK-negative patients. ALK-positivity was 12.2% by IHC and confirmed at 8.2% of tumors by FISH, with complete concordance between IHC 3+/0 and FISH+/− assessments, respectively. Five-year risk of progression or recurrence was doubled for patients with ALK-positive compared with ALK-negative tumors; ALK-positive tumors also appeared to be associated with a higher risk of brain and liver metastases.
Our findings suggest that ALK-positivity is associated with a significantly poor outcome in non-smoking-related adenocarcinoma, and that ALK-positive tumors may be associated with an increased risk of brain and liver metastases compared with ALK-negative disease. Consequently, an unmet medical need exists in ALK-positive lung cancer patients, and effective ALK-specific therapies are needed now.
EML4-anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK); non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC); immunohistochemistry (IHC); fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH); progression and recurrence free survival (PFS/RFS)
A subset of lung adenocarcinomas harboring an EML4-ALK fusion gene resulting in dominant oncogenic activity has emerged as a target for specific therapy. EML4-ALK fusion confers a characteristic histology and is detected more frequently in never or light smokers and younger patients.
To gain insights into etiology and carcinogenic mechanisms we conducted analyses to compare allelotypes of 35 ALK fusion-positive and 95 -negative tumours using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays and especially designed software which enabled precise global genomic profiling.
Overall aberration numbers (gains + losses) of chromosomal alterations were 8.42 and 9.56 in tumours with and without ALK fusion, respectively, the difference not being statistically significant, although patterns of gain and loss were distinct. Interestingly, among selected genomic regions, oncogene-related examples such as 1p34.3(MYCL1), 7q11.2(EGFR), 7p21.1, 8q24.21(MYC), 16p13.3, 17q12(ERBB2) and 17q25.1 showed significantly less gain. Also, changes in tumour suppressor gene-related regions, such as 9p21.3 (CDKN2A) 9p23-24.1 (PTPRD), 13q14.2 (RB1), were significantly fewer in tumours with ALK fusion.
Global genomic comparison with SNP arrays showed tumours with ALK fusion to have fewer alterations in oncogenes and suppressor genes despite a similar overall aberration frequency, suggesting very strong oncogenic potency of ALK activation by gene fusion.
Lung adenocarcinoma; ALK fusion; SNP array; Allelotype; Copy number
We previously demonstrated that stage IIIB/IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) never smokers lived 50% longer than former/current smokers. This observation persisted after adjusting for age, performance status, and gender. We hypothesized that smoking-dependent differences in the distribution of driver mutations might explain differences in prognosis between these subgroups.
We reviewed 293 never smokers and 382 former/current smokers with lung adenocarcinoma who underwent testing for EGFR and KRAS mutations and rearrangements in ALK between 2009 and 2010. Clinical outcomes and patient characteristics were collected. Survival probabilities were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Group comparison was performed with log-rank tests and Cox proportional hazards methods.
While the overall incidence of these mutations was nearly identical (55% never smokers vs. 57% current/former smokers, p=0.48), there were significant differences in the distribution of mutations between these groups: EGFR mutations- 37% never smokers vs. 14% former/current smokers (p<0.0001); KRAS mutations- 4% never smokers vs. 43% former/current smokers (p<0.0001); ALK rearrangements- 12% never smokers vs. 2% former/current smokers (p<0.0001). Among never smokers and former/current smokers, prognosis differed significantly by genotype. Patients harboring KRAS mutations demonstrated the poorest survival. Smoking status, however, had no influence on survival within each genotype.
Never smokers and former/current smokers with lung adenocarcinomas are not homogeneous subgroups. Each is made up of individuals whose tumors have a unique distribution of driver mutations which are associated with different prognoses, irrespective of smoking history.
non-small cell lung cancer; adenocarcinoma; EGFR; KRAS; ALK; never smoker
The EML4-ALK fusion gene has been recently identified in a small subset of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients who respond positively to ALK inhibitors. The characteristics of the EML4-ALK fusion gene in Chinese patients with NSCLC are poorly understood. Here, we report on the prevalence of EML4-ALK, EGFR status and KRAS mutations in 208 Chinese patients with NSCLC. EGFR mutations were found in 24.5% (51/208) of patients. In concordance with previous reports, these mutations were identified at high frequencies in females (47.5% vs 15.0% in males; P<0.05); never-smokers (42.3% vs 13.9% in smokers; P<0.05), and adenocarcinoma patients (44.2% vs 8.0% in non-adenocarcinoma patients; P<0.05). There were only 2.88% (6/208) patients with KRAS mutations in our study group. We identified 7 patients who harbored the EML4-ALK fusion gene (3.37%, 7/208), including 4 cases with variant 3 (57.1%), 2 with variant 1, and 1 with variant 2. All positive cases corresponded to female patients (11.5%, 7/61). Six of the positive cases were non-smokers (7.69%, 6/78). The incidence of EML4-ALK translocation in female, non-smoking adenocarcinoma patients was as high as 15.2% (5/33). No EGFR/KRAS mutations were detected among the EML4-ALK positive patients. Pathological analysis showed no difference between solid signet-ring cell pattern (4/7) and mucinous cribriform pattern (3/7) in ALK-positive patients. Immunostaining showed intratumor heterogeneity of ALK rearrangement in primary carcinomas and 50% (3/6) of metastatic tumors with ALK-negative staining. Meta-analysis demonstrated that EML4-ALK translocation occurred in 4.84% (125/2580) of unselected patients with NSCLC, and was also predominant in non-smoking patients with adenocarcinoma. Taken together, EML4-ALK translocations were infrequent in the entire NSCLC patient population, but were frequent in the NSCLC subgroup of female, non-smoker, adenocarcinoma patients. There was intratumor heterogeneity of ALK rearrangement in primary carcinomas and at metastatic sites.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations are common in lung adenocarcinomas of never smokers, while KRAS mutations are more frequent among heavy smokers. Different clinicopathological and biological characteristics may, therefore, exist in lung adenocarcinoma according to smoking status. In the present study, a retrospective review was performed using 521 patients with surgically resected lung adenocarcinomas. The clinicopathological factors of age, gender, pathological tumor size, nodal status, lymphatic permeation and blood vessel invasion and the EGFR and KRAS mutation spectra were compared between never and heavy smokers. EGFR mutations were detected in 233 (45%) patients, while KRAS mutations were detected in 56 (11%) patients. EGFR-mutated adenocarcinomas had a higher prevalence of females in the never smokers compared with the heavy smokers (P<0.001). KRAS-mutated adenocarcinomas had a higher prevalence of females (P<0.001) and showed less frequent vascular invasion (P=0.018) in the never smokers compared with the heavy smokers. Minor EGFR mutations, excluding exon 21 L858R and exon 19 deletions, were more common in heavy smokers than never smokers (P=0.055). KRAS G to A transition was more common in never smokers, while KRAS G to T and G to C transversions were more common in heavy smokers (P=0.036). The clinicopathological characteristics and the spectra of the EGFR and KRAS mutations in lung adenocarcinoma were different between the never and heavy smokers. Further large-scale studies are required to evaluate the efficacy of molecular targeting agents with consideration to specific EGFR and KRAS mutations.
lung cancer; adenocarcinoma; smoking; epidermal growth factor receptor; KRAS; mutation
The EML4-ALK fusion oncogene represents a novel molecular target in a small subset of non–small-cell lung cancers (NSCLC). To aid in identification and treatment of these patients, we examined the clinical characteristics and treatment outcomes of patients who had NSCLC with and without EML4-ALK.
Patients and Methods
Patients with NSCLC were selected for genetic screening on the basis of two or more of the following characteristics: female sex, Asian ethnicity, never/light smoking history, and adenocarcinoma histology. EML4-ALK was identified by using fluorescent in situ hybridization for ALK rearrangements and was confirmed by immunohistochemistry for ALK expression. EGFR and KRAS mutations were determined by DNA sequencing.
Of 141 tumors screened, 19 (13%) were EML4-ALK mutant, 31 (22%) were EGFR mutant, and 91 (65%) were wild type (WT/WT) for both ALK and EGFR. Compared with the EGFR mutant and WT/WT cohorts, patients with EML4-ALK mutant tumors were significantly younger (P < .001 and P = .005) and were more likely to be men (P = .036 and P = .039). Patients with EML4-ALK–positive tumors, like patients who harbored EGFR mutations, also were more likely to be never/light smokers compared with patients in the WT/WT cohort (P < .001). Eighteen of the 19 EML4-ALK tumors were adenocarcinomas, predominantly the signet ring cell subtype. Among patients with metastatic disease, EML4-ALK positivity was associated with resistance to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Patients in the EML4-ALK cohort and the WT/WT cohort showed similar response rates to platinum-based combination chemotherapy and no difference in overall survival.
EML4-ALK defines a molecular subset of NSCLC with distinct clinical characteristics. Patients who harbor this mutation do not benefit from EGFR TKIs and should be directed to trials of ALK-targeted agents.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations were reported in different cancers. However, the nature and role of mtDNA mutation in never-smoker lung cancer patients including patients with EGFR and KRAS gene mutation are unknown. In the present study, we sequenced entire mitochondrial genome (16.5 kb) in matched normal and tumors obtained from 30 never-smoker and 30 current-smoker lung cancer patients, and determined the mtDNA content. All the patients’ samples were sequenced for KRAS (exon 2) and EGFR (exon 19 and 21) gene mutation. The impact of forced overexpression of a respiratory complex-I gene mutation was evaluated in a lung cancer cell line. We observed significantly higher (P=0.006) mtDNA mutation in the never-smokers compared to the current-smoker lung cancer patients. MtDNA mutation was significantly higher (P=0.026) in the never-smoker Asian compared to the current-smoker Caucasian patients’ population. MtDNA mutation was significantly (P=0.007) associated with EGFR gene mutation in the never-smoker patients. We also observed a significant increase (P=0.037) in mtDNA content among the never-smoker lung cancer patients. The majority of the coding mtDNA mutations targeted respiratory complex-I and forced overexpression of one of these mutations resulted in increased in vitro proliferation, invasion and superoxide production in lung cancer cells. We observed a higher prevalence and new relationship between mtDNA alterations among never-smoker lung cancer patients and EGFR gene mutation. Moreover, a representative mutation produced strong growth effects after forced overexpression in lung cancer cells. Signature mtDNA mutations provide a basis to develop novel biomarkers and therapeutic strategies for never-smoker lung cancer patients.
Lung cancer; never-smokers; MtDNA mutation; Respiratory Complex-I; EGFR mutation
We report the results of whole genome and transcriptome sequencing of tumor and adjacent normal tissue samples from 17 patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). We identified 3,726 point mutations and over 90 indels in the coding sequence, with an average mutation frequency more than 10-fold higher in smokers than in never-smokers. Novel alterations in genes involved in chromatic modification and DNA repair pathways were identified along with DACH1, CFTR, RELN, ABCB5, and HGF. Deep digital sequencing revealed diverse clonality patterns in both never smokers and smokers. All validated EFGR and KRAS mutations were present in the founder clones, suggesting possible roles in cancer initiation. Analysis revealed 14 fusions including ROS1 and ALK as well as novel metabolic enzymes. Cell cycle and JAK-STAT pathways are significantly altered in lung cancer along with perturbations in 54 genes that are potentially targetable with currently available drugs.
The anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene is frequently involved in translocations that lead to gene fusions in a variety of human malignancies, including lymphoma and lung cancer. Fusion partners of ALK include NPM, EML4, TPM3, ATIC, TFG, CARS, and CLTC. Characterization of ALK fusion patterns and their resulting clinicopathological profiles could be of great benefit in better understanding the biology of lung cancer.
RACE-coupled PCR sequencing was used to assess ALK fusions in a cohort of 103 non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) patients. Within this cohort, the EML4-ALK fusion gene was identified in 12 tumors (11.6%). Further analysis revealed that EML4-ALK was present at a frequency of 16.13% (10/62) in patients with adenocarcinomas, 19.23% (10/52) in never-smokers, and 42.80% (9/21) in patients with adenocarcinomas lacking EGFR and KRAS mutations. The EML4-ALK fusion was associated with non-smokers (P = 0.03), younger age of onset (P = 0.03), and adenocarcinomas without EGFR/KRAS mutations (P = 0.04). A trend towards improved survival was observed for patients with the EML4-ALK fusion, although it was not statistically significant (P = 0.20). Concurrent deletion in EGFR exon 19 and fusion of EML4-ALK was identified for the first time in a Chinese female patient with an adenocarcinoma. Analysis of ALK expression revealed that ALK mRNA levels were higher in tumors positive for the EML-ALK fusion than in negative tumors (normalized intensity of 21.99 vs. 0.45, respectively; P = 0.0018). However, expression of EML4 did not differ between the groups.
The EML4-ALK fusion gene was present at a high frequency in Chinese NSCLC patients, particularly in those with adenocarcinomas lacking EGFR/KRAS mutations. The EML4-ALK fusion appears to be tightly associated with ALK mRNA expression levels. RACE-coupled PCR sequencing is a highly sensitive method that could be used clinically for the identification of EML4-ALK-positive patients.
The fusion between echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4 (EML4) and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) has recently been identified in a subset of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs). EML4-ALK is most often detected in never smokers with lung cancer and has unique pathologic features. EML4-ALK is oncogenic both in vitro and in vivo and ALK kinase inhibitors are quite effective in pre-clinical model systems. More recently ALK inhibitors have entered clinical development and remarkably clinical efficacy has been observed in NSCLC patients harbouring EML4-ALK translocations. This review will focus on the biology, clinical characteristics, diagnosis and treatment of EML4-ALK NSCLC.
Non-small cell lung carcinoma; translocation; kinase inhibitor; clinical trial
This study was designed to determine the relationship of cigarette smoking to the frequency and qualitative differences among KRAS mutations in lung adenocarcinomas from Korean patients.
Materials and Methods
Detailed smoking histories were obtained from 200 consecutively enrolled patients with lung adenocarcinoma according to a standard protocol. EGFR (exons 18 to 21) and KRAS (codons 12/13) mutations were determined via direct-sequencing.
The incidence of KRAS mutations was 8% (16 of 200) in patients with lung adenocarcinoma. KRAS mutations were found in 5.8% (7 of 120) of tumors from never-smokers, 15% (6 of 40) from former-smokers, and 7.5% (3 of 40) from current-smokers. The frequency of KRAS mutations did not differ significantly according to smoking history (p=0.435). Never-smokers were significantly more likely than former or current smokers to have a transition mutation (G→A or C→T) rather than a transversion mutation (G→T or G→C) that is known to be smoking-related (p=0.011). In a Cox regression model, the adjusted hazard ratios for the risk of progression with epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) were 0.24 (95% CI, 0.14-0.42; p<0.001) for the EGFR mutation and 1.27 (95% CI, 0.58-2.79; p=0.537) for the KRAS mutation.
Cigarette smoking did not influence the frequency of KRAS mutations in lung adenocarcinomas in Korean patients, but influenced qualitative differences in the KRAS mutations.
EGFR; KRAS; pulmonary adenocarcinoma; cigarette smoking; EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors
The molecular epidemiology of most EGFR and KRAS mutations in lung cancer remains unclear.
We genotyped 3026 lung adenocarcinomas for the major EGFR (exon 19 deletions and L858R) and KRAS (G12, G13) mutations and examined correlations with demographic, clinical and smoking history data.
EGFR mutations were found in 43% of never smokers (NS) and in 11% of smokers. KRAS mutations occurred in 34% of smokers and in 6% of NS. In patients with smoking histories up to 10 pack-years, EGFR predominated over KRAS. Among former smokers with lung cancer, multivariate analysis showed that, independent of pack-years, increasing smoking-free years raise the likelihood of EGFR mutation. NS were more likely than smokers to have KRAS G>A transition mutation (mostly G12D) (58% vs. 20%, p=0.0001). KRAS G12C, the most common G>T transversion mutation in smokers, was more frequent in women (p=0.007) and these women were younger than men with the same mutation (median 65 vs. 69, p=0.0008) and had smoked less.
The distinct types of KRAS mutations in smokers vs. NS suggest that most KRAS-mutant lung cancers in NS are not due to secondhand smoke exposure. The higher frequency of KRAS G12C in women, their younger age, and lesser smoking history together support a heightened susceptibility to tobacco carcinogens.
lung cancer; tobacco; EGFR; KRAS; molecular epidemiology
Recently, rearranged during transfection (RET) fusions have been identified in approximately 1% of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). To know the prevalence of RET fusion genes in Korean NSCLCs, we examined the RET fusion genes in 156 surgically resected NSCLCs using a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Two KIF5B-RET fusions and one CCDC6-RET fusion were identified. All three patients were females and never smokers with adenocarcinomas. RET fusion genes were mutually exclusive from EGFR, KRAS mutations and EML4-ALK fusion. RET fusion genes occur 1.9% (3 of 156) of surgically treated NSCLC patients in Koreans.
RET Fusion; KIF5B; CCDC6; Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung; Korean
Epidemiological studies indicate that some characteristics of lung cancer among never-smokers significantly differ from those of smokers. Aberrant promoter methylation and mutations in some oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes are frequent in lung tumors from smokers but rare in those from never-smokers. In this study, we analyzed promoter methylation in the ras-association domain isoform A (RASSF1A) and the death-associated protein kinase (DAPK) genes in lung tumors from patients with primarily non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) from the Western Pennsylvania region. We compare the results with the smoking status of the patients and the mutation status of the K-ras, p53, and EGFR genes determined previously on these same lung tumors.
Promoter methylation of the RASSF1A and DAPK genes was analyzed by using a modified two-stage methylation-specific PCR. Data on mutations of K-ras, p53, and EGFR were obtained from our previous studies.
The RASSF1A gene promoter methylation was found in tumors from 46.7% (57/122) of the patients and was not significantly different between smokers and never-smokers, but was associated significantly in multiple variable analysis with tumor histology (p = 0.031) and marginally with tumor stage (p = 0.063). The DAPK gene promoter methylation frequency in these tumors was 32.8% (40/122) and did not differ according to the patients' smoking status, tumor histology, or tumor stage. Multivariate analysis adjusted for age, gender, smoking status, tumor histology and stage showed that the frequency of promoter methylation of the RASSF1A or DAPK genes did not correlate with the frequency of mutations of the K-ras, p53, and EGFR gene.
Our results showed that RASSF1A and DAPK genes' promoter methylation occurred frequently in lung tumors, although the prevalence of this alteration in these genes was not associated with the smoking status of the patients or the occurrence of mutations in the K-ras, p53 and EGFR genes, suggesting each of these events may represent independent event in non-small lung tumorigenesis.
Identifying specific somatic mutations that drive tumor growth has transformed the treatment of lung cancer. For example, cancers with sensitizing epidermal growth factor receptor mutations and echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4-anaplastic lymphoma kinase translocations can have remarkable responses to epidermal growth factor receptor and ALK inhibitors respectively, leading to significant clinical benefit. However, effective molecularly targeted therapies have disproportionately impacted adenocarcinomas compared to squamous cell carcinomas, and never or light smokers compared to heavy smokers. Further progress in non–small-cell lung cancer will require the identification and effective targeting of molecular alterations in all subtypes of lung cancer. Here, we review the current knowledge about the molecular alterations found in squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. First, we will discuss the ongoing efforts to comprehensively assess the squamous cell carcinoma genome. We will then discuss the evidence supporting the role of specific genes in driving squamous cell carcinomas. By describing the landscape of somatic targets in squamous cell lung cancer, we hope to crystallize the current understanding of potential targets, spur development of therapies that can have clinical impact, and underscore the importance of new discoveries in this field.
Squamous cell carcinoma of the lung; Molecular targets; Somatic mutations
Tumor islands - large collections of tumor cells isolated within alveolar spaces - can be seen in lung adenocarcinomas. Recently we observed by 3D reconstruction that these structures were connected with each other and with the main tumor in different tissue planes, raising the possibility of tumor islands being a means of invasion. However, the clinical and prognostic significance of tumor islands remain unknown. In this study, we compared clinicopathological and molecular characteristics and prognosis of Stage I–II lung adenocarcinomas with tumor islands (n=58) and those without (n=203). Lung adenocarcinomas with tumor islands were more likely to occur in smokers, exhibit higher nuclear grade and a solid or micropapillary pattern of growth, and harbor KRAS mutations. In contrast, lung adenocarcinomas without tumor islands were more likely to present as minimally invasive adenocarcinoma, show a lepidic pattern of growth, and harbor EGFR mutations. Although there was no difference in stage, the prognosis of lung adenocarcinomas with tumor islands was significantly worse than those without. The five-year recurrence-free survival for patients with tumor islands and those without was 44.6% and 74.4%, respectively (log-rank p = 0.010). The survival difference remained significant (p < 0.020) by multivariate analysis, and the presence of tumor islands was associated with almost two-fold increase in the risk of recurrence. Even in the Stage IA cohort, more than half of the patients with tumor islands experienced recurrence within 5 years. Thus, aggressive surveillance and/or further intervention may be indicated for patients whose tumors exhibit tumor islands.
lung adenocarcinoma; 3D; intra-alveolar; tumor islands; prognosis
Appropriate patient selection is needed for targeted therapies that are efficacious only in patients with specific genetic alterations. We aimed to define subgroups of patients with candidate driver genes in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.
Patients with primary lung cancer who underwent clinical genetic tests at Guangdong General Hospital were enrolled. Driver genes were detected by sequencing, high-resolution melt analysis, qPCR, or multiple PCR and RACE methods.
524 patients were enrolled in this study, and the differences in driver gene alterations among subgroups were analyzed based on histology and smoking status. In a subgroup of non-smokers with adenocarcinoma, EGFR was the most frequently altered gene, with a mutation rate of 49.8%, followed by EML4-ALK (9.3%), PTEN (9.1%), PIK3CA (5.2%), c-Met (4.8%), KRAS (4.5%), STK11 (2.7%), and BRAF (1.9%). The three most frequently altered genes in a subgroup of smokers with adenocarcinoma were EGFR (22.0%), STK11 (19.0%), and KRAS (12.0%). We only found EGFR (8.0%), c-Met (2.8%), and PIK3CA (2.6%) alterations in the non-smoker with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) subgroup. PTEN (16.1%), STK11 (8.3%), and PIK3CA (7.2%) were the three most frequently enriched genes in smokers with SCC. DDR2 and FGFR2 only presented in smokers with SCC (4.4% and 2.2%, respectively). Among these four subgroups, the differences in EGFR, KRAS, and PTEN mutations were statistically significant.
The distinct features of driver gene alterations in different subgroups based on histology and smoking status were helpful in defining patients for future clinical trials that target these genes. This study also suggests that we may consider patients with infrequent alterations of driver genes as having rare or orphan diseases that should be managed with special molecularly targeted therapies.
A recurrent gene fusion between EML4 and ALK in 6.7% of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) and NKX2-1 (TTF1, TITF1) high-level amplifications in 12% of adenocarcinomas of the lung were independently reported recently. Because the EML4-ALK fusion was only shown by a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction approach, we developed fluorescent in situ hybridization assays to interrogate more than 600 NSCLCs using break-apart probes for EML4 and ALK. We found that EML4-ALK fusions occur in less than 3% of NSCLC samples and that EML4 and/or ALK amplifications also occur. We also observed that, in most cases in which an EML4/ALK alteration is detected, not all of the tumor cells harbor the lesion. By using a detailed multi-fluorescent in situ hybridization probe assay and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, we have evidence that other, more common mechanisms besides gene inversion exist including the possibility of other fusion partners for ALK and EML4. Furthermore, we confirmed the NKX2-1 high-level amplification in a significant subset of NSCLC and found this amplification to be mutually exclusive to ALK and EML4 rearrangements.
Cleft Lip and Palate Transmembrane Protein 1-Like (CLPTM1L), resides in a region of chromosome 5 for which copy number gain has been found to be the most frequent genetic event in the early stages of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This locus has been found by multiple genome wide association studies to be associated with lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. CLPTM1L has been identified as an overexpressed protein in human ovarian tumor cell lines that are resistant to cisplatin, which is the only insight thus far into the function of CLPTM1L. Here we find CLPTM1L expression to be increased in lung adenocarcinomas compared to matched normal lung tissues and in lung tumor cell lines by mechanisms not exclusive to copy number gain. Upon loss of CLPTM1L accumulation in lung tumor cells, cisplatin and camptothecin induced apoptosis were increased in direct proportion to the level of CLPTM1L knockdown. Bcl-xL accumulation was significantly decreased upon loss of CLPTM1L. Expression of exogenous Bcl-xL abolished sensitization to apoptotic killing with CLPTM1L knockdown. These results demonstrate that CLPTM1L, an overexpressed protein in lung tumor cells, protects from genotoxic stress induced apoptosis through regulation of Bcl-xL. Thus, this study implicates anti-apoptotic CLPTM1L function as a potential mechanism of susceptibility to lung tumorigenesis and resistance to chemotherapy.
Aberrant methylation in gene promoter regions leads to transcriptional inactivation of cancer-related genes and plays an integral role in tumorigenesis. This alteration has been investigated in lung tumors primarily from smokers, whereas only a few studies involved never-smokers. Here, we applied methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction to compare the frequencies of the methylated promoter of p16 and O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) genes in lung tumors from 122 patients with non-small cell lung cancer, including 81 smokers and 41 never-smokers. Overall, promoter methylation was detected in 52.5% (64 of 122) and 30.3% (37 of 122) of the p16 and MGMT genes, respectively. Furthermore, the frequency of promoter methylation was significantly higher among smokers, compared with never-smokers, for both the p16 [odds ratio (OR) = 3.28; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.28-8.39; P = .013] and MGMT (OR = 3.93; 95% CI = 1.27-12.21; P = .018) genes. The trend for a higher promoter methylation frequency of these genes was also observed among female smokers compared with female never-smokers. Our results suggest an association between tobacco smoking and an increased incidence of aberrant promoter methylation of the p16 and MGMT genes in non-small cell lung cancer.
Lung tumors; p16; MGMT; promoter methylation; never-smokers
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.
Aberrant promoter hypermethylation is one of the major mechanisms in carcinogenesis and some critical growth regulatory genes have shown commonality in methylation across solid tumors. Twenty-six genes, 14 identified through methylation in colon and breast cancers, were evaluated using primary lung adenocarcinomas (n = 175) from current, former and never smokers. Tumor specificity of methylation was validated through comparison of 14 lung cancer cell lines to normal human bronchial epithelial cells derived from bronchoscopy of 20 cancer-free smokers. Twenty-five genes were methylated in 11–81% of primary tumors. Prevalence for methylation of TNFRSF10C, BHLHB5 and BOLL was significantly higher in adenocarcinomas from never smokers than smokers. The relation between methylation of individual genes was examined using pairwise comparisons. A significant association was seen between 138 (42%) of the possible 325 pairwise comparisons. Most notably, methylation of MMP2, BHLHB4 or p16 was significantly associated with methylation of 16–19 other genes, thus predicting for a widespread methylation phenotype. Kaplan–Meier log-rank test and proportional hazard models identified a significant association between methylation of SULF2 (a pro-growth, -angiogenesis and -migration gene) and better patient survival (hazard ratio = 0.23). These results demonstrate a high degree of commonality for targeted silencing of genes between lung and other solid tumors and suggest that promoter hypermethylation in cancer is a highly co-ordinated event.