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1.  The Evolution of Tumor Classification: A Role for Genomics? 
Cancer cell  2013;24(6):693-694.
Lung cancers are divided into four types according to their histologic appearance. Therapeutic decisions are partly based on histology. A recent study indicates that certain molecular alterations associate with histology and therapies directed to these molecular changes improve outcome, indicating that genomic information should be incorporated into future tumor classification.
PMCID: PMC3928679  PMID: 24332038
2.  Using Multiplexed Assays of Oncogenic Drivers in Lung Cancers to Select Targeted Drugs 
Targeting oncogenic drivers (genomic alterations critical to cancer development and maintenance) has transformed the care of patients with lung adenocarcinomas. The Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium was formed to perform multiplexed assays testing adenocarcinomas of the lung for drivers in 10 genes to enable clinicians to select targeted treatments and enroll patients into clinical trials.
To determine the frequency of oncogenic drivers in patients with lung adenocarcinomas and to use the data to select treatments targeting the identified driver(s) and measure survival.
From 2009 through 2012, 14 sites in the United States enrolled patients with metastatic lung adenocarcinomas and a performance status of 0 through 2 and tested their tumors for 10 drivers. Information was collected on patients, therapies, and survival.
Tumors were tested for 10 oncogenic drivers, and results were used to select matched targeted therapies.
Determination of the frequency of oncogenic drivers, the proportion of patients treated with genotype-directed therapy, and survival.
From 2009 through 2012, tumors from 1007 patients were tested for at least 1 gene and 733 for 10 genes (patients with full genotyping). An oncogenic driver was found in 466 of 733 patients (64%). Among these 733 tumors, 182 tumors (25%) had the KRAS driver; sensitizing EGFR, 122 (17%); ALK rearrangements, 57 (8%); other EGFR, 29 (4%); 2 or more genes, 24 (3%); ERBB2 (formerly HER2), 19 (3%); BRAF, 16 (2%); PIK3CA, 6 (<1%); MET amplification, 5 (<1%); NRAS, 5 (<1%); MEK1, 1 (<1%); AKT1, 0. Results were used to select a targeted therapy or trial in 275 of 1007 patients (28%). The median survival was 3.5 years (interquartile range [IQR], 1.96-7.70) for the 260 patients with an oncogenic driver and genotype-directed therapy compared with 2.4 years (IQR, 0.88-6.20) for the 318 patients with any oncogenic driver(s) who did not receive genotype-directed therapy (propensity score–adjusted hazard ratio, 0.69 [95% CI, 0.53-0.9], P = .006).
Actionable drivers were detected in 64% of lung adenocarcinomas. Multiplexed testing aided physicians in selecting therapies. Although individuals with drivers receiving a matched targeted agent lived longer, randomized trials are required to determine if targeting therapy based on oncogenic drivers improves survival.
PMCID: PMC4163053  PMID: 24846037
3.  Native and rearranged ALK copy number and rearranged cell count in NSCLC: Implications for ALK inhibitor therapy 
Cancer  2013;119(22):3968-3975.
Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase positive (ALK+) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) responds to ALK inhibitors. Clinically, ≥ 15% cells showing rearrangements by break-apart FISH classify tumors as positive. Increases in native and rearranged ALK copy number also occur.
1426 NSCLC clinical specimens (174 ALK+ and 1252 ALK negative), and 24 ALK negative NSCLC cell lines were investigated. ALK copy number and genomic status were assessed by FISH.
Clinical specimens with 0–9%, 10–15%, 16–30%, 31–50% and >50% of ALK+ cells were found in 79.3%, 8.5%, 1.4%, 2.7% and 8.1% of cases, respectively. Increased native ALK copy number (≥3 copies/cell in ≥40% cells) was detected in 19% of ALK+ and 62% of ALK negative tumors. In ALK negative tumors, abundant focal amplification of native ALK was rare (0.8%). Other atypical patterns occurred in ~6% of tumors. Mean native ALK copy number ranged from 2.1–6.9 in cell lines and was not correlated with crizotinib sensitivity (IC50s 0.34–2.8 uM) (r=0.279, p=0.1764). Neither native, nor rearranged ALK copy number, nor percentage cells positive correlated with extra-central nervous system progression free survivalin ALK+ patients on crizotinib.
8.5% of cases are below the established positivity threshold by ≤5%. Further investigation of ALK by other diagnostic techniques in such cases may be warranted. Native ALK copy number increases alone are not associated with sensitivity to ALK inhibition in vitro. However, rare complex patterns of increased native ALK in patients should be studied further as atypical rearrangements contained within these may otherwise be missed.
PMCID: PMC3947483  PMID: 24022839
ALK; FISH; copy number; borderline; crizotinib
4.  Endobronchial miRNAs as biomarkers in lung cancer chemoprevention 
Lung cancers express lower levels of prostacyclin than normal lung tissues. Prostacyclin prevents lung cancer in a variety of mouse models. A randomized phase II trial comparing oral iloprost (a prostacyclin analogue) to placebo in high-risk subjects demonstrated improvement in bronchial histology in former, but not current, smokers. This placebo-controlled study offered the opportunity for investigation of other potential intermediate endpoint and predictive biomarkers to incorporate into chemoprevention trials.
Matched bronchial biopsies were obtained at baseline (BL) and at 6 months follow-up (FU) from 125 high-risk individuals who completed the trial: 31/29 and 37/28 current/former smokers in the iloprost and placebo arm, respectively. We analyzed the expression of 14 selected miRNAs by qRT-PCR in 496 biopsies.
The expression of seven miRNAs was significantly correlated with histology at BL. The expression of miR-34c was inversely correlated with histology at BL (p<0.0001) and with change in histology at FU (p=0.0003), independent of treatment or smoking status. Several miRNAs were also found to be differentially expressed in current smokers as compared with former smokers. In current smokers, miR-375 was up-regulated at BL (p<0.0001) and down-regulated after treatment with iloprost (p=0.0023). No miRNA at baseline reliably predicted a response to iloprost.
No biomarker predictive of response to iloprost was found. MiR-34c was inversely correlated with BL histology and with histology changes. Mir-34c changes at FU could be used as a quantitative biomarker which parallels histologic response in formalin-fixed bronchial biopsies in future lung cancer chemoprevention studies.
PMCID: PMC4159305  PMID: 23268837
miRNAs; chemoprevention; lung cancer; iloprost
5.  Chemotherapy Outcomes by Histologic Subtypes of Non-Small cell Lung Cancer: Analysis of the Southwest Oncology Group Database for Antimicrotubule-Platinum Therapy 
Clinical lung cancer  2013;14(6):627-635.
Histological subtyping has been advocated to select chemotherapy for patients with advanced stage non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Data from four randomized trials (S9308, S9509, S9806 and S0003) administering an antimicrotubular agent (a taxane or vinorelbine) plus platinum in patients receiving first line treatment for advanced stage NSCLC were analyzed. Of 1146 patients included in this analysis there was no difference in OS or PFS by histological subtype. Since the great majority of advanced NSCLC patients continue to receive chemotherapy, defining molecular-based predictive markers of responsiveness is warranted.
Histologic subtyping has been advocated to select chemotherapy for patients with advanced-stage non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). To determine if histologic subtype was associated with efficacy for the commonly used antimicrotubular (AMT) agents, paclitaxel, docetaxel and vinorelbine plus a platinum compound, we examined the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) lung cancer database.
Data from 4 randomized trials (S9308, S9509, S9806 and S0003) administering an AMT agent plus platinum in patients receiving first-line treatment for advanced stage NSCLC were analyzed. Overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) comparisons were performed using Cox proportional hazard regression, adjusting for sex. Median survival times were estimated by Kaplan-Meier.
Of 1146 patients included in this analysis, 640 had adenocarcinoma (56%), 220 had squamous cell carcinoma (19%), 121 had large cell carcinoma (11%) and 165 had NSCLC not otherwise specified (NOS)(14%). Median OS times by histologic subtypes were 8.5, 8.4, 8.2, and 9.6 months, respectively, and median PFS times were 4.2, 4.3, 4.3, and 4.6 months, respectively. No difference in OS or PFS was observed by histologic subtype and, specifically, between nonsquamous and squamous histologies.
This pooled analysis from 4 SWOG trials employing an AMT-platinum regimen did not show a difference in survival outcomes by histologic subtype. Because the majority of patients with advanced NSCLC continue to receive chemotherapy, defining molecular-based predictive markers of responsiveness is warranted.
PMCID: PMC4122504  PMID: 23910067
Chemotherapy outcomes; Histology; Lung cancer
6.  Validation of a blood protein signature for non-small cell lung cancer 
Clinical Proteomics  2014;11(1):32.
CT screening for lung cancer is effective in reducing mortality, but there are areas of concern, including a positive predictive value of 4% and development of interval cancers. A blood test that could manage these limitations would be useful, but development of such tests has been impaired by variations in blood collection that may lead to poor reproducibility across populations.
Blood-based proteomic profiles were generated with SOMAscan technology, which measured 1033 proteins. First, preanalytic variability was evaluated with Sample Mapping Vectors (SMV), which are panels of proteins that detect confounders in protein levels related to sample collection. A subset of well collected serum samples not influenced by preanalytic variability was selected for discovery of lung cancer biomarkers. The impact of sample collection variation on these candidate markers was tested in the subset of samples with higher SMV scores so that the most robust markers could be used to create disease classifiers. The discovery sample set (n = 363) was from a multi-center study of 94 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cases and 269 long-term smokers and benign pulmonary nodule controls. The analysis resulted in a 7-marker panel with an AUC of 0.85 for all cases (68% adenocarcinoma, 32% squamous) and an AUC of 0.93 for squamous cell carcinoma in particular. This panel was validated by making blinded predictions in two independent cohorts (n = 138 in the first validation and n = 135 in the second). The model was recalibrated for a panel format prior to unblinding the second cohort. The AUCs overall were 0.81 and 0.77, and for squamous cell tumors alone were 0.89 and 0.87. The estimated negative predictive value for a 15% disease prevalence was 93% overall and 99% for squamous lung tumors. The proteins in the classifier function in destruction of the extracellular matrix, metabolic homeostasis and inflammation.
Selecting biomarkers resistant to sample processing variation led to robust lung cancer biomarkers that performed consistently in independent validations. They form a sensitive signature for detection of lung cancer, especially squamous cell histology. This non-invasive test could be used to improve the positive predictive value of CT screening, with the potential to avoid invasive evaluation of nonmalignant pulmonary nodules.
PMCID: PMC4123246  PMID: 25114662
Lung cancer; Biomarker; SOMAmer; Proteomic; Squamous cell carcinoma; Diagnosis; Preanalytic variability; Sample bias
7.  Diagnostic Assays for Identification of Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase–Positive Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Cancer  2012;119(8):1467-1477.
In series dominated by adenocarcinoma histology, approximately 5% of non–small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) harbor an anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangement. Crizotinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor with significant activity against ALK, has demonstrated high response rates and prolonged progression-free survival in ALK-positive patients enrolled in phase 1/2 clinical trials. In 2011, crizotinib received accelerated approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of proven ALK-positive NSCLC using an FDA-approved diagnostic test. Currently, only break-apart fluorescence in situ hybridization testing is FDA approved as a companion diagnostic for crizotinib; however, many other assays are available or in development. In the current review, the authors summarize the diagnostic tests available, or likely to become available, that could be used to identify patients with ALK-positive NSCLC, highlighting the pros and cons of each.
PMCID: PMC3935240  PMID: 23280244
crizotinib; non-small cell lung cancer; anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangements; fluorescence in situ hybridization
8.  Mer or Axl Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Inhibition Promotes Apoptosis, Blocks Growth, and Enhances Chemosensitivity of Human Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Oncogene  2012;32(29):3420-3431.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a prevalent and devastating disease that claims more lives than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined. Current research suggests that standard chemotherapy regimens have been optimized to maximal efficiency. Promising new treatment strategies involve novel agents targeting molecular aberrations present in subsets of NSCLC. We evaluated 88 human NSCLC tumors of diverse histology and identified Mer and Axl as receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) overexpressed in 69% and 93%, respectively, of tumors relative to surrounding normal lung tissue. Mer and Axl were also frequently overexpressed and activated in NSCLC cell lines. Ligand-dependent Mer or Axl activation stimulated MAPK, AKT, and FAK signaling pathways indicating roles for these RTKs in multiple oncogenic processes. In addition, we identified a novel pro-survival pathway—involving AKT, CREB, Bcl-xL, survivin, and Bcl-2—downstream of Mer, which is differentially modulated by Axl signaling. We demonstrated that shRNA knockdown of Mer or Axl significantly reduced NSCLC colony formation and growth of subcutaneous xenografts in nude mice. Mer or Axl knockdown also improved in vitro NSCLC sensitivity to chemotherapeutic agents by promoting apoptosis. When comparing the effects of Mer and Axl knockdown, Mer inhibition exhibited more complete blockade of tumor growth while Axl knockdown more robustly improved chemosensitivity. These results indicate that Mer and Axl play complementary and overlapping roles in NSCLC and suggest that treatment strategies targeting both RTKs may be more effective than singly-targeted agents. Our findings validate Mer and Axl as potential therapeutic targets in NSCLC and provide justification for development of novel therapeutic compounds that selectively inhibit Mer and/or Axl.
PMCID: PMC3502700  PMID: 22890323
targeted therapy; receptor tyrosine kinase; MerTK; signal transduction; xenograft; chemosensitivity
9.  Characteristics of Lung Cancers Harboring NRAS Mutations 
We sought to determine the frequency and clinical characteristics of patients with lung cancer harboring NRAS mutations. We used preclinical models to identify targeted therapies likely to be of benefit against NRAS mutant lung cancer cells.
Patients and Methods
We reviewed clinical data from patients whose lung cancers were identified at 6 institutions or reported in the Catalogue of Somatic Mutations in Cancer (COSMIC) to harbor NRAS mutations. 6 NRAS mutant cell lines were screened for sensitivity against inhibitors of multiple kinases (i.e. EGFR, ALK, MET, IGF-1R, BRAF, PI3K and MEK).
Among 4562 patients with lung cancers tested, NRAS mutations were present in 30 (0.7%; 95% confidence interval, 0.45% to 0.94%); 28 of these had no other driver mutations. 83% had adenocarcinoma histology with no significant differences in gender. While 95% of patients were former or current smokers, smoking-related G:C>T:A transversions were significantly less frequent in NRAS mutated lung tumors compared to KRAS-mutant NSCLCs (NRAS: 13% (4/30), KRAS: 66% (1772/2733), p<0.00000001). 5 of 6 NRAS mutant cell lines were sensitive to the MEK inhibitors, selumetinib and trametinib, but not to other inhibitors tested.
NRAS mutations define a distinct subset of lung cancers (~1%) with potential sensitivity to MEK inhibitors. While NRAS mutations are more common in current/former smokers, the types of mutations are not those classically associated with smoking.
PMCID: PMC3643999  PMID: 23515407
NRAS mutation; EGFR mutation; KRAS mutation; lung cancer; non-small cell lung cancer; driver mutation; MEK inhibitor; erlotinib; gefitinib; crizotinib
10.  Oncogene Status Predicts Patterns of Metastatic Spread in Treatment-Naïve Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Cancer  2012;118(18):4502-4511.
The discovery of distinct subsets of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) characterized by activation of driver oncogenes has greatly impacted personalized therapy. We hypothesized that the dominant oncogene in NSCLC would be associated with distinct patterns of metastatic spread in NSCLC at the time of diagnosis.
209 consecutive patients with stage IV non-squamous NSCLC with an EGFR mutation (N=39), KRAS mutation (N=49), ALK gene rearrangement (N=41), or wild-type for all three (triple negative, N=80) were included. The percentage of patients with metastatic disease at a given site was compared between each molecular cohort (EGFR, KRAS, or ALK) and the triple negative cohort.
ALK gene rearrangement was significantly associated with pericardial disease (OR=4.61, 95% CI 1.30, 16.37, p=0.02) and pleural disease (OR=4.80, 95% CI 2.10, 10.97, p<0.001). Patients with ALK gene rearrangements (OR=5.50, 95% CI 1.76, 17.18, p= 0.003) and patients with EGFR mutations (OR=5.17, 95% CI 1.63, 16.43, p= 0.006) were predisposed to liver metastasis compared to the triple negative cohort. No molecular cohort had a predisposition to pulmonary nodules, adrenal, bone, or brain metastasis compared to the triple negative cohort. The mean number of metastatic disease sites in patients within the ALK rearranged cohort was significantly greater than the triple negative cohort (mean = 3.6 sites vs. 2.5 sites, p<0.0001).
The results support the hypothesis that the dominant molecular oncogenes in NSCLC are associated with different biological behaviors manifesting as distinct patterns of metastatic spread at the time of diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3370097  PMID: 22282022
metastasis; Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer; EGFR; ALK tyrosine kinase receptor; KRAS
11.  Defining a Gene Promoter Methylation Signature in Sputum for Lung Cancer Risk Assessment 
To evaluate the methylation state of 31 genes in sputum as biomarkers in an expanded nested, case-control study from the Colorado Cohort and to assess the replication of results from the most promising genes in an independent case-control study of asymptomatic Stage I lung cancer patients from New Mexico.
Experimental Design
Cases and controls from Colorado and New Mexico were interrogated for methylation of up to 31 genes using nested, methylation specific PCR. Individual genes and methylation indices were used to assess the association between methylation and lung cancer with logistic regression modeling.
Seventeen genes with odds ratios of 1.4 – 3.6 were identified and selected for replication in the New Mexico study. Overall, the direction of effects seen in New Mexico was similar to Colorado with the largest increase in case discrimination (odds ratios, 3.2 – 4.2) seen for the PAX5α, GATA5, and SULF2 genes. ROC curves generated from seven gene panels from Colorado and New Mexico studies showed prediction accuracy of 71% and 77%, respectively. A 22-fold increase in lung cancer risk was seen for a subset of New Mexico cases with five or more genes methylated. Sequence variants associated with lung cancer did not improve the accuracy of this gene methylation panel.
These studies have identified and replicated a panel of methylated genes whose integration with other promising biomarkers could initially identify the highest risk smokers for computed tomography screening for early detection of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3483793  PMID: 22510351
gene methylation; sputum; lung cancer; biomarker
12.  High Expression of Folate Receptor Alpha in Lung Cancer Correlates with Adenocarcinoma Histology and EGFR Mutation 
Journal of Thoracic Oncology  2012;7(5):833-840.
Folate receptor alpha (FRα) and reduced folate carrier-1 (RFC1) regulate uptake of folate molecules inside the cell. FRα is a potential biomarker of tumors response to antifolate chemotherapy and a target for therapy using humanized monocloncal antibody. Information on the protein expression of these receptors in non–small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is limited.
Material and Methods
Expressions of FRα and RFC1 were examined by IHC in 320 surgically resected NSCLC (202 adenocarcinomas and 118 squamous cell carcinomas) tissue specimens and correlated with patients’ clinicopathologic characteristics. FOLR1 mRNA expression was examined using publicly available microarray datasets. FRα expression was correlated with thymidylate synthase (TS) and p53 expression in NSCLCs, and with EGFR and KRAS mutations in adenocarcinomas.
NSCLC overexpressed FRα and RFC1. In a multivariate analysis, lung adenocarcinomas were more likely to express FRα in the cytoplasm (odds ratio [OR] = 4.39; P<0.0001) and membrane (OR = 5.34; P<0.0001) of malignant cells than squamous cell carcinomas. Tumors from never-smokers were more likely to express cytoplasmic (OR = 3.35; P<0.03) and membrane (OR = 3.60; P=0.0005) FRα than those from smokers. In adenocarcinoma, EGFR mutations correlated with higher expression of membrane FRα and FOLR1 gene expressions. High levels of FRα expression was detected in 42 NSCLC advanced metastatic tumor tissues.
FRα and RFC1 proteins are overexpressed in NSCLC tumor tissues. The high levels of FRα in lung adenocarcinomas may be associated to these tumors’ better responses to antifolate chemotherapy and represents a potential novel target for this tumor type.
PMCID: PMC3383601  PMID: 22729036
non–small cell lung carcinoma; EGFR; membrane transporter; FRα; FRC1
13.  Loss of transforming growth factor beta type II receptor increases aggressive tumor behavior and reduces survival in lung adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma 
Clinical Cancer Research  2012;18(8):2173-2183.
Lung adenocarcinoma (AdC) and lung squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the most common non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) subtypes. This study was designed to determine whether reduced expression of transforming growth factor β type II receptor (TGFβRII) promotes lung AdC and SCC carcinogenesis.
Experimental Design
We examined TGFβRII expression at the protein and mRNA levels in human NSCLC samples and assessed the relationship between TGFβRII expression and clinico-pathologic parameters. To determine if sporadic TGFβRII deletion in airway epithelial cells induces NSCLC formation, we targeted TGFβRII deletion alone and in combination with oncogenic KrasG12D to murine airways using a keratin 5 (K5) promoter and inducible Cre recombinase.
Reduced TGFβRII expression in human NSCLC is associated with male gender, smoking, SCC histology, reduced differentiation, increased tumor stage, increased nodal metastasis, and reduced survival. Homozygous or heterozygous TGFβRII deletion in mouse airway epithelia increases the size and number of KrasG12D-initiated AdC and SCC. TGFβRII deletion increases proliferation, local inflammation, and TGFβ ligand elaboration; TGFβRII knockdown in airway epithelial cells increases migration and invasion.
Reduced TGFβRII expression in human NSCLC is associated with more aggressive tumor behavior and inflammation that is at least partially mediated by increased TGFβ1 expression. TGFβRII deletion in mouse airway epithelial cells promotes AdC and SCC formation, indicating that TGFβRII loss plays a causal role in lung carcinogenesis. That TGFβRII demonstrates haploid insufficiency, suggests that a 50% TGFβRII protein reduction would negatively impact lung cancer prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3328594  PMID: 22399565
lung adenocarcinoma; lung squamous cell carcinoma; TGFβ; tumor progression; mouse model
14.  Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase Gene Rearrangements in Non-small Cell Lung Cancer are Associated with Prolonged Progression-Free Survival on Pemetrexed 
To explore whether the progression-free survival (PFS) with pemetrexed differs between anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive and other major molecular subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer.
In an ALK-enriched population, patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer were screened by ALK fluorescence in situ hybridization and for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and KRAS mutations. Triple-tested, pemetrexed-treated patients (monotherapy or combination therapy) were identified and PFS with pemetrexed captured retrospectively.
Eighty-nine eligible cases were identified (19 ALK fluorescence in situ hybridization positive, 12 EGFR mutant, 21 KRAS mutant, and 37 triple negatives). Eighty-three cases (93%) were adenocarcinomas, two were adenosquamous, one squamous, and three had large cell histology. None of the ALK-positive patients had received crizotinib before pemetrexed. Pemetrexed was first-line therapy in 48% (72% as platinum-based combinations). Median PFS (95% confidence interval) data were EGFR mutant (5.5 months; 1–9), KRAS mutant (7 months; 1.5–10), ALK positive (9 months; 3–12), and triple negative (4 months; 3–5). In a multivariate analysis adjusting for line of therapy, mono- versus platinum and nonplatinum combination therapy, age, sex, histology, and smoking status, the only variable associated with prolonged PFS on pemetrexed was ALK+ (hazard ratio = 0.36 [95% confidence interval: 0.17– 0.73], p = 0.0051).
In this exploratory analysis, ALK-positive patients have a significantly longer PFS on pemetrexed compared with triple-negative patients, whereas EGFR or KRAS mutant patients do not. This information should be considered when sizing randomized studies in ALK-positive patients that involve pemetrexed. Pemetrexed should also be prioritized as a cytotoxic to explore further in patients with known ALK-positive disease.
PMCID: PMC3626562  PMID: 21336183
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase; Non-small cell lung cancer; Epidermal growth factor receptor; KRAS; Pemetrexed
15.  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
This phase II study (S0341) evaluated the efficacy and tolerability of single-agent erlotinib in unselected chemotherapy-naïve patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and a performance status (PS) of 2. Exploratory analyses of a number of biomarkers relating to EGFR pathway activation were also performed.
Patients and Methods
Patients with stage IIIB (pleural effusion) or stage IV NSCLC with a PS of 2 and no prior chemotherapy or biologic treatment for NSCLC received erlotinib 150 mg daily.
A total of 81 patients entered the study; 76 were assessable. One complete and 5 partial responses were noted for an overall response rate of 8% (95% CI 3%–16%).Stable disease (SD) was seen in 26 patients (34 %) resulting in a disease control rate (DCR=CR/PR/SD) of 42%. Progression free and median survival were 2.1 months (95% CI 1.5–3.1) and 5 months (95% CI 3.6–7.2) respectively. One-year survival was 24% (95% CI 15%–34%). Although treatment was generally well tolerated, grade 3–4 toxicity was reported in 30 patients (40%), including fatigue (16%), rash (9%), diarrhea (7%) and anorexia (7%). There was one possible treatment related death (pneumonitis).
In chemotherapy-naïve patients with advanced NSCLC and a PS of 2, single agent erlotinib resulted in an acceptable but significant level of treatment-related side effects. With an overall DCR of 42% and median survival of 5 months, results are comparable to those achieved with chemotherapy in this population. Development of an EGFR-directed biomarker selection strategy may optimize use of erlotinib in PS 2 patients.
PMCID: PMC3523698  PMID: 18758306
17.  A Randomized, Phase II, Biomarker-Selected Study Comparing Erlotinib to Erlotinib Intercalated With Chemotherapy in First-Line Therapy for Advanced Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2011;29(26):3567-3573.
Erlotinib prolongs survival in patients with advanced non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We report the results of a randomized, phase II study of erlotinib alone or intercalated with chemotherapy (CT + erlotinib) in chemotherapy-naïve patients with advanced NSCLC who were positive for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein expression and/or with high EGFR gene copy number.
Patients and Methods
A total of 143 patients were randomly assigned to either erlotinib 150 mg daily orally until disease progression (PD) occurred or to chemotherapy with paclitaxel 200 mg/m2 intravenously (IV) and carboplatin dosed by creatinine clearance (AUC 6) IV on day 1 intercalated with erlotinib 150 mg orally on days 2 through 15 every 3 weeks for four cycles followed by erlotinib 150 mg orally until PD occurred (CT + erlotinib). The primary end point was 6-month progression-free survival (PFS); secondary end points included response rate, PFS, and survival. EGFR, KRAS mutation, EGFR fluorescent in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, and E-cadherin and vimentin protein levels were also assessed.
Six-month PFS rates were 26% and 31% for the two arms (CT + erlotinib and erlotinib alone, respectively). Both were less than the historical control of 45% (P = .001 and P = .011, respectively). Median PFS times were 4.57 and 2.69 months, respectively. Patients with tumors harboring EGFR activating mutations fared better on erlotinib alone (median PFS, 18.2 months v 4.9 months for CT + erlotinib).
The feasibility of a multicenter biomarker-driven study was demonstrated, but neither treatment arms exceeded historical controls. This study does not support combined chemotherapy and erlotinib in first-line treatment of EGFR-selected advanced NSCLC, and the patients with tumors harboring EGFR mutations had a better outcome on erlotinib alone.
PMCID: PMC3179254  PMID: 21825259
18.  Optimizing the Detection of Lung Cancer Patients Harboring Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) Gene Rearrangements Potentially Suitable for ALK Inhibitor Treatment 
Clinical Cancer Research  2010;16(22):5581-5590.
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearrangements, associated with sensitivity to an experimental ALK/MET inhibitor, occur in 3% to 5% of non-small cell lung cancers. Intratumoral fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) heterogeneity has been reported. We explored the heterogeneity basis, the requirements for accurately determining ALK FISH positivity, and the effect of enriching the tested population using clinical and molecular factors.
Experimental Design
Lung cancer patients were screened by ALK and MET FISH and for EGFR and KRAS mutations.
Thirteen ALK-positive cases were identified from 73 screened patients. Gene copy number increases occurred together with classic rearrangements. All positive cases were adenocarcinomas, 12 were EGFR/KRAS wild-type, and 1 had a coexistent EGFR exon 20 mutation. No association with MET amplification occurred. ALK positivity was associated with <10-pack-year smoking status (P = 0.0004). Among adenocarcinomas, without KRAS or EGFR mutations, with <10-pack-year history, 44.8% of cases were ALK positive. ALK FISH positivity was heterogeneous, but mean values in tumor areas from ALK-positive patients (54% of cells; range, 22-87%) were significantly higher than in adjacent normal tissue or tumor/ normal areas from ALK-negative patients (mean, 5-7%). Contiguous sliding field analyses showed diffuse heterogeneity without evidence of focal ALK rearrangements. One hundred percent sensitivity and specificity occurred when four or more fields (~60 cells) were counted.
Intratumoral ALK FISH heterogeneity reflects technique, not biology. The clinical activity of ALK/MET inhibitors in ALK-positive patients probably reflects ALK, but not MET, activity. Prescreening by histology, EGFR/KRAS mutations, and smoking status dramatically increases the ALK-positive hit rate compared with unselected series.
PMCID: PMC3395226  PMID: 21062932
19.  EGFR and HER2 Genomic Gain in Recurrent Non-small Cell Lung Cancer After Surgery 
Journal of Thoracic Oncology  2009;4(3):318-325.
Sensitivity to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and frequency of activation mutations in EGFR is lower in Caucasian than Asian non small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. Increased EGFR gene copy numbers evaluated by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) has been reported as predictor of clinical benefit from EGFR-TKIs in Caucasian NSCLC patients. This study was carried out to verify whether EGFR FISH had similar performance in Japanese patients.
A cohort of 44 Japanese patients with recurrent NSCLC after surgery was treated with gefitinib 250 mg daily. The cohort included 48% females and 52% never-smokers; 73% had prior chemotherapy and 57% had stage III-IV at the time of surgery. Adenocarcinoma was the most common histology (86%). FISH was performed using the EGFR/Chromosome Enumeration Probe 7 and PathVysion DNA probes (Abbott Molecular). Specimens were classified as FISH positive when showing gene amplification or high polysomy (≥4 copies of the gene in ≥40% of tumor cells). Tumor response to gefitinib was assessed by RECIST for 33 patients with measurable diseases.
Twenty-nine tumors (66%) were EGFR FISH+ and 23 (53%) were HER2 FISH+. Overall response rate was 52%, representing 65% of EGFR FISH+ patients and 29% of EGFR FISH+ patients (p = 0.0777). Survival was not impacted by the EGFR FISH (p = 0.9395) or the HER2 FISH (p = 0.0671) status. EGFR FISH= was significantly associated with HER2 FISH+ (p = 0.015) and presence of EGFR mutation (p = 0.0060). EGFR mutation significantly correlated with response (p < 0.0001) and survival after gefitinib (p = 0.0204). EGFR and HER2 FISH status were not associated with KRAS mutation.
Frequency of EGFR FISH+ status was higher and its predictive power for TKI sensitivity was lower in this Japanese cohort than in Western NSCLC cohorts. These findings support differences in the mechanisms of EGFR pathway activation in NSCLC between Asian and Caucasian populations. Confirmation of these results in larger cohorts is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3379811  PMID: 19247083
FISH; EGFR; HER2; KRAS; Biomarkers; NSCLC; Tyrosine inhibitors
20.  Increased EGFR Gene Copy Number Detected by Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization Predicts Outcome in Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer Patients Treated With Cetuximab and Chemotherapy 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2008;26(20):3351-3357.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene copy number detected by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) has proven to be useful for selection of non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients for treatment with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Here, we evaluate EGFR FISH as a predictive marker in NSCLC patients receiving the EGFR monoclonal antibody inhibitor cetuximab plus chemotherapy.
Patients and Methods
Two hundred twenty-nine chemotherapy-naive patients with advanced-stage NSCLC were enrolled onto a phase II selection trial evaluating sequential or concurrent chemotherapy (paclitaxel plus carboplatin) with cetuximab.
EGFR FISH was assessable in 76 patients with available tumor tissue and classified as positive (four or more gene copies per cell in ≥ 40% of the cells or gene amplification) in 59.2%. Response (complete response/partial response) was numerically higher in FISH-positive (45%) versus FISH-negative (26%) patients (P = .14), whereas disease control rate (complete response/partial response plus stable disease) was statistically superior (81% v 55%, respectively; P = .02). Patients with FISH-positive tumors had a median progression-free survival time of 6 months compared with 3 months for FISH-negative patients (P = .0008). Median survival time was 15 months for the FISH-positive group compared with 7 months for patients who were FISH negative. (P = .04). Furthermore, survival favored FISH-positive patients receiving concurrent therapy.
These results are the first to suggest that EGFR FISH is a predictive factor for selection of NSCLC patients for cetuximab plus chemotherapy. Prospective validation of these findings is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3368372  PMID: 18612151
21.  Oral Iloprost Improves Endobronchial Dysplasia in Former Smokers 
There are no established chemopreventive agents for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Prostacyclin levels are low in lung cancer and supplementation prevents lung cancer in preclinical models. We carried out a multicenter double-blind, randomized, phase II placebo-controlled trial of oral iloprost in current or former smokers with sputum cytologic atypia or endobronchial dysplasia. Bronchoscopy was performed at study entry and after completion of six months of therapy. Within each subject, the results were calculated by using the average score of all biopsies (Avg), the worst biopsy score (Max), and the dysplasia index (DI). Change in Avg was the primary end point, evaluated in all subjects, as well as in current and former smokers. The accrual goal of 152 subjects was reached and 125 completed both bronchoscopies (60/75 iloprost, 65/77 placebo). Treatment groups were well matched for age, tobacco exposure, and baseline histology. Baseline histology was significantly worse for current smokers (Avg 3.0) than former smokers (Avg 2.1). When compared with placebo, former smokers receiving oral iloprost exhibited a significantly greater improvement in Avg (0.41 units better, P = 0.010), in Max (1.10 units better, P = 0.002), and in DI (12.45%, P = 0.006). No histologic improvement occurred in current smokers. Oral iloprost significantly improves endobronchial histology in former smokers and deserves further study to determine if it can prevent the development of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3251330  PMID: 21636546
22.  A Phase I/II Study of Erlotinib in Combination with the Anti-Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 Receptor Monoclonal Antibody IMC-A12 (Cixutumumab) in Patients with Advanced Non-small Cell Lung Cancer 
Journal of Thoracic Oncology  2012;7(2):419-426.
This phase I/II study evaluated the safety and anti-tumor effect of the combination of erlotinib with cixutumumab, a recombinant fully humanized anti-insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor IgG1 monoclonal antibody, in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Patients with advanced NSCLC were treated in an initial safety-lead and drop-down cohorts using erlotinib 150 mg/d with cixutumumab 6 or 5 mg/kg on days 1, 8, 15, and 22 in 28-day cycles (cohorts 1 and 2). Emerging pharmacokinetic data led to an additional cohort (3 + 3 design) with cixutumumab at 15 mg/kg on day 1 in 21-day cycles (cohort 3).
Eighteen patients entered the study (6 at 6 mg/kg, 8 at 5 mg/kg, and 4 at 15 mg/kg), with median age of 65 years. Four of six patients at 6 mg/kg experienced dose-limiting toxicities (DLTs), whereas at 5 mg/kg, one of eight patients experienced DLT but three of eight patients still required a dose delay during cycle 1. At 15 mg/kg every 21 days, two of four patients experienced DLTs. In all cohorts, DLTs were either G3 rash or fatigue. Five patients had stable disease as best response and 14 patients had progressive disease. The median progression-free survival was 39 days (range 21–432+ days). Biomarkers analyses showed a trend toward better progression-free survival seen with higher free baseline insulin-like growth factor-1 levels as seen with other insulin-like growth factor-1R inhibitors.
The combinations of cixutumumab at 6 mg/kg every 7 days and 15 mg/kg every 21 days and full-dose erlotinib are not tolerable in unselected patients with NSCLC, as measured by DLT. Cixutumumab at 5 mg/kg every 7 days was tolerable per DLT, but dose delays were common. Efficacy in unselected patients with NSCLC seems to be low.
PMCID: PMC3358820  PMID: 22237261
Non-small cell lung cancer; IGF1R monoclonal antibody; EGFR; Metastatic disease
23.  Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Immunohistochemistry 
Cancer  2008;112(5):1114-1121.
The ISEL (Iressa Survival Evaluation in Lung Cancer) clinical trial evaluated the efficacy of gefitinib versus placebo in pretreated nonsmall-cell lung cancer patients. Two different antibodies, scoring systems, and cutoff points of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein expression were compared to predict response and survival of enrolled patients.
EGFR expression was assessed in tumor samples by immunohistochemistry using the Dako EGFR pharmDx kit (scoring percent of tumor cells with positive staining) and Zymed monoclonal antibody clone 31G7 (scoring staining index derived from proportion of positive cells times staining intensity).
Data for EGFR expression were available for 379 patients for Dako and 357 patients for Zymed antibody (22% and 21%, respectively, of trial population). Objective response rates in gefitinib-treated EGFR-positive patients defined with various cutpoints with Dako antibody varied between 8% and 12%, and with Zymed antibody between 10% and 13%. Lower cutoff points with Dako antibody provided the best discrimination between EGFR-positive and EGFR-negative patients for survival hazard ratios comparing gefitinib to placebo, with a significant treatment/cutoff point interaction for 10% cutoff point (P = .049). A similar but less apparent trend was noted for Zymed antibody, although the discrimination between hazard ratios was not significant for any cutoff point analyzed.
Assessment with the Dako PharmDx kit and percentage of cells with positive staining may provide more accurate prediction of differential effect on survival with gefitinib than assessment with Zymed antibody and staining index. Using higher cutpoints to define positivity does not improve test discrimination.
PMCID: PMC3355966  PMID: 18219661
nonsmall-cell lung cancer; epidermal growth factor receptor; immunohistochemistry; phase 3 trial; cutoff point
24.  Lung cancer diagnosis from proteomic analysis of preinvasive lesions 
Cancer research  2011;71(8):3009-3017.
Early detection may help improve survival from lung cancer. In this study our goal was to derive and validate a signature from the proteomic analysis of bronchial lesions that could predict the diagnosis of lung cancer. Using previously published studies of bronchial tissues we selected a signature of 9 matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI MS) mass to charge ratio features to build a prediction model diagnostic of lung cancer. The model was based on MALDI MS signal intensity (MALDI score) from bronchial tissue specimens from our 2005 published cohort of 51 patients. The performance of the prediction model in identifying lung cancer was tested in an independent cohort of bronchial specimens from 60 patients. The probability of having lung cancer based on the proteomic analysis of the bronchial specimens was characterized by an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.77 (95% CI 0.66 to 0.88) in this validation cohort. Eight of the 9 features were identified and validated by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. These results demonstrate that proteomic analysis of endobronchial lesions may facilitate the diagnosis of lung cancer and the monitoring of high risk individuals for lung cancer in surveillance and chemoprevention trials.
PMCID: PMC3110721  PMID: 21487035
Lung cancer; Proteomic signature; Early detection; Biomarkers; Tumorigenesis
25.  Protein Kinase Cδ is a downstream effector of oncogenic KRAS in lung tumors1 
Cancer Research  2011;71(6):2087-2097.
Oncogenic activation of KRAS occurs commonly in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), but strategies to therapeutically target this pathway have been challenging to develop. Information about downstream effectors of KRAS remains incomplete and tractable targets are yet to be defined. In this study we investigated the role of Protein Kinase C delta (PKCδ) in KRAS dependent lung tumorigenesis using a mouse carcinogen model and human NSCLC cells. The incidence of urethane-induced lung tumors was decreased by 69% in PKCδ deficient (δKO) mice compared to wild type (δWT) mice. δKO tumors are smaller and showed reduced proliferation. DNA sequencing indicated that all δWT tumors had activating mutations in KRAS, whereas only 69% of δKO tumors did, suggesting that PKCδ acts as a tumor promoter downstream of oncogenic KRAS, while acting as a tumor suppressor in other oncogenic contexts. Similar results were obtained in a panel of NSCLC cell lines with oncogenic KRAS, but which differ in their dependence on KRAS for survival. RNAi-mediated attenuation of PKCδ inhibited anchorage-independent growth, invasion, migration and tumorigenesis in KRAS-dependent cells. These effects were associated with suppression of MAPK pathway activation. In contrast, PKCδ attenuation enhanced anchorage-independent growth, invasion and migration in NSCLC cells that were either KRAS-independent or that had wild-type KRAS. Unexpectedly, our studies indicate that the function of PKCδ in tumor cells depends on a specific oncogenic context, as loss of PKCδ in NSCLC cells suppressed transformed growth only in cells dependent upon oncogenic KRAS for proliferation and survival.
PMCID: PMC3271733  PMID: 21335545
PKC delta; K-Ras; lung cancer; transformation

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