We examine the potential prognostic and predictive roles of EGFR variant III mutation, EGFR gene copy number (GCN), human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, c-MET and p16INK4A protein expression in recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (R/M SCCHN).
We analyzed the archival tumor specimens of 53 patients who were treated in 4 phase II trials for R/M SCCHN. Two trials involved the EGFR inhibitor erlotinib, and 2 trials involved non-EGFR targeted agents. EGFRvIII mutation was determined by quantitative RT-PCR, HPV DNA by Linear Array Genotyping, p16 and c-MET protein expression by immunohistochemistry, and EGFR GCN by FISH.
EGFRvIII mutation, detected in 22 patients (42%), was associated with better disease control, but no difference was seen between erlotinib-treated versus non-erlotinib treated patients. EGFRvIII was not associated with TTP or OS. The presence of HPV DNA (38%), p16 immunostaining (32%), c-MET high expression (58%) and EGFR amplification (27%), were not associated with response, TTP or OS.
EGFRvIII mutation, present in about 40% of SCCHN, appears to be an unexpected prognostic biomarker associated with better disease control in R/M SCCHN regardless of treatment with erlotinib. Larger prospective studies are required to validate its significance.