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1.  PIK3CA Mutations and Copy Number Gains in Human Lung Cancers 
Cancer research  2008;68(17):6913-6921.
We investigated the frequency and function of mutations and increased copy number of the PIK3CA gene in lung cancers. PIK3CA mutations are one of the most common gene changes present in human cancers. We analyzed the mutational status of exons 9 and 20 and gene copy number of PIK3CA using 86 non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines, 43 small cell lung cancer (SCLC) cell lines, 3 extrapulmonary small cell cancer (ExPuSC) cell lines, and 691 resected NSCLC tumors and studied the relationship between PIK3CA alterations and mutational status of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling pathway genes (EGFR, KRAS, HER2, and BRAF). We also determined PIK3CA expression and activity and correlated the findings with effects on cell growth. We identified mutations in 4.7% of NSCLC cell lines and 1.6% of tumors of all major histologic types. Mutations in cell lines of small cell origin were limited to two ExPuSC cell lines. PIK3CA copy number gains were more frequent in squamous cell carcinoma (33.1%) than in adenocarcinoma (6.2%) or SCLC lines (4.7%). Mutational status of PIK3CA was not mutually exclusive to EGFR or KRAS. PIK3CA alterations were associated with increased phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activity and phosphorylated Akt expression. RNA interference–mediated knockdown of PIK3CA inhibited colony formation of cell lines with PIK3CA mutations or gains but was not effective in PIK3CA wild-type cells. PIK3CA mutations or gains are present in a subset of lung cancers and are of functional importance.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-5084
PMCID: PMC2874836  PMID: 18757405
2.  Genetic predictors of MEK-dependence in non-small cell lung cancer 
Cancer research  2008;68(22):9375-9383.
Hyperactivated ERK signaling is common in human cancer and is often the result of activating mutations in BRAF, RAS and upstream receptor tyrosine kinases. In order to characterize the MEK/ERK dependence of lung cancers harboring BRAF kinase domain mutations, we screened a large panel of human lung cancer cell lines (n= 87) and tumors (n=916) for BRAF mutations. We found that NSCLC cells with both V600E and non-V600E BRAF mutations were selectively sensitive to MEK inhibition, compared to those harboring mutations in EGFR, KRAS, or ALK and ROS kinase fusions. Supporting its classification as a “driver” mutation in the cells in which it is expressed, MEK inhibition in V600EBRAF NSCLC cells led to substantial induction of apoptosis, comparable to that seen with EGFR kinase inhibition in EGFR-mutant NSCLC models. Despite high basal ERK phosphorylation, EGFR-mutant cells were uniformly resistant to MEK inhibition. Conversely, BRAF-mutant cell lines were resistant to EGFR inhibition. These data, together with the non-overlapping pattern of EGFR and BRAF mutations in human lung cancer, suggest that these lesions define distinct clinical entities whose treatment should be guided by prospective real-time genotyping. To facilitate such an effort, we developed a mass spectrometry-based genotyping method for the detection of hot-spot mutations in BRAF, KRAS, and EGFR. Using this assay, we confirmed that BRAF mutations can be identified in a minority of NSCLC tumors, and that patients whose tumors harbor BRAF mutations have a distinct clinical profile compared to those whose tumors harbor kinase domain mutations in EGFR.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2223
PMCID: PMC2649746  PMID: 19010912
BRAF; non-small cell lung cancer; MEK inhibitor; PD0325901; EGFR mutation; gefitinib; erlotinib
3.  Oncogene Mutations, Copy Number Gains and Mutant Allele Specific Imbalance (MASI) Frequently Occur Together in Tumor Cells 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7464.
Background
Activating mutations in one allele of an oncogene (heterozygous mutations) are widely believed to be sufficient for tumorigenesis. However, mutant allele specific imbalance (MASI) has been observed in tumors and cell lines harboring mutations of oncogenes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We determined 1) mutational status, 2) copy number gains (CNGs) and 3) relative ratio between mutant and wild type alleles of KRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA and EGFR genes by direct sequencing and quantitative PCR assay in over 400 human tumors, cell lines, and xenografts of lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. Examination of a public database indicated that homozygous mutations of five oncogenes were frequent (20%) in 833 cell lines of 12 tumor types. Our data indicated two major forms of MASI: 1) MASI with CNG, either complete or partial; and 2) MASI without CNG (uniparental disomy; UPD), due to complete loss of wild type allele. MASI was a frequent event in mutant EGFR (75%) and was due mainly to CNGs, while MASI, also frequent in mutant KRAS (58%), was mainly due to UPD. Mutant: wild type allelic ratios at the genomic level were precisely maintained after transcription. KRAS mutations or CNGs were significantly associated with increased ras GTPase activity, as measured by ELISA, and the two molecular changes were synergistic. Of 237 lung adenocarcinoma tumors, the small number with both KRAS mutation and CNG were associated with shortened survival.
Conclusions
MASI is frequently present in mutant EGFR and KRAS tumor cells, and is associated with increased mutant allele transcription and gene activity. The frequent finding of mutations, CNGs and MASI occurring together in tumor cells indicates that these three genetic alterations, acting together, may have a greater role in the development or maintenance of the malignant phenotype than any individual alteration.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007464
PMCID: PMC2757721  PMID: 19826477
4.  Alterations in Genes of the EGFR Signaling Pathway and Their Relationship to EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Sensitivity in Lung Cancer Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4576.
Background
Deregulation of EGFR signaling is common in non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) and this finding led to the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that are highly effective in a subset of NSCLC. Mutations of EGFR (mEGFR) and copy number gains (CNGs) of EGFR (gEGFR) and HER2 (gHER2) have been reported to predict for TKI response. Mutations in KRAS (mKRAS) are associated with primary resistance to TKIs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated the relationship between mutations, CNGs and response to TKIs in a large panel of NSCLC cell lines. Genes studied were EGFR, HER2, HER3 HER4, KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA. Mutations were detected by sequencing, while CNGs were determined by quantitative PCR (qPCR), fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH). IC50 values for the TKIs gefitinib (Iressa) and erlotinib (Tarceva) were determined by MTS assay. For any of the seven genes tested, mutations (39/77, 50.6%), copy number gains (50/77, 64.9%) or either (65/77, 84.4%) were frequent in NSCLC lines. Mutations of EGFR (13%) and KRAS (24.7%) were frequent, while they were less frequent for the other genes. The three techniques for determining CNG were well correlated, and qPCR data were used for further analyses. CNGs were relatively frequent for EGFR and KRAS in adenocarcinomas. While mutations were largely mutually exclusive, CNGs were not. EGFR and KRAS mutant lines frequently demonstrated mutant allele specific imbalance i.e. the mutant form was usually in great excess compared to the wild type form. On a molar basis, sensitivity to gefitinib and erlotinib were highly correlated. Multivariate analyses led to the following results:
 1. mEGFR and gEGFR and gHER2 were independent factors related to gefitinib sensitivity, in descending order of importance.
 2. mKRAS was associated with increased in vitro resistance to gefitinib.
Conclusions/Significance
Our in vitro studies confirm and extend clinical observations and demonstrate the relative importance of both EGFR mutations and CNGs and HER2 CNGs in the sensitivity to TKIs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004576
PMCID: PMC2642732  PMID: 19238210
5.  Polymorphisms, Mutations, and Amplification of the EGFR Gene in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(4):e125.
Background
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene is the prototype member of the type I receptor tyrosine kinase (TK) family and plays a pivotal role in cell proliferation and differentiation. There are three well described polymorphisms that are associated with increased protein production in experimental systems: a polymorphic dinucleotide repeat (CA simple sequence repeat 1 [CA-SSR1]) in intron one (lower number of repeats) and two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the promoter region, −216 (G/T or T/T) and −191 (C/A or A/A). The objective of this study was to examine distributions of these three polymorphisms and their relationships to each other and to EGFR gene mutations and allelic imbalance (AI) in non-small cell lung cancers.
Methods and Findings
We examined the frequencies of the three polymorphisms of EGFR in 556 resected lung cancers and corresponding non-malignant lung tissues from 336 East Asians, 213 individuals of Northern European descent, and seven of other ethnicities. We also studied the EGFR gene in 93 corresponding non-malignant lung tissue samples from European-descent patients from Italy and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 250 normal healthy US individuals enrolled in epidemiological studies including individuals of European descent, African–Americans, and Mexican–Americans. We sequenced the four exons (18–21) of the TK domain known to harbor activating mutations in tumors and examined the status of the CA-SSR1 alleles (presence of heterozygosity, repeat number of the alleles, and relative amplification of one allele) and allele-specific amplification of mutant tumors as determined by a standardized semiautomated method of microsatellite analysis. Variant forms of SNP −216 (G/T or T/T) and SNP −191 (C/A or A/A) (associated with higher protein production in experimental systems) were less frequent in East Asians than in individuals of other ethnicities (p < 0.001). Both alleles of CA-SSR1 were significantly longer in East Asians than in individuals of other ethnicities (p < 0.001). Expression studies using bronchial epithelial cultures demonstrated a trend towards increased mRNA expression in cultures having the variant SNP −216 G/T or T/T genotypes. Monoallelic amplification of the CA-SSR1 locus was present in 30.6% of the informative cases and occurred more often in individuals of East Asian ethnicity. AI was present in 44.4% (95% confidence interval: 34.1%–54.7%) of mutant tumors compared with 25.9% (20.6%–31.2%) of wild-type tumors (p = 0.002). The shorter allele in tumors with AI in East Asian individuals was selectively amplified (shorter allele dominant) more often in mutant tumors (75.0%, 61.6%–88.4%) than in wild-type tumors (43.5%, 31.8%–55.2%, p = 0.003). In addition, there was a strong positive association between AI ratios of CA-SSR1 alleles and AI of mutant alleles.
Conclusions
The three polymorphisms associated with increased EGFR protein production (shorter CA-SSR1 length and variant forms of SNPs −216 and −191) were found to be rare in East Asians as compared to other ethnicities, suggesting that the cells of East Asians may make relatively less intrinsic EGFR protein. Interestingly, especially in tumors from patients of East Asian ethnicity, EGFR mutations were found to favor the shorter allele of CA-SSR1, and selective amplification of the shorter allele of CA-SSR1 occurred frequently in tumors harboring a mutation. These distinct molecular events targeting the same allele would both be predicted to result in greater EGFR protein production and/or activity. Our findings may help explain to some of the ethnic differences observed in mutational frequencies and responses to TK inhibitors.
Masaharu Nomura and colleagues examine the distribution ofEGFR polymorphisms in different populations and find differences that might explain different responses to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in lung cancer patients.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Most cases of lung cancer—the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide—are “non-small cell lung cancer” (NSCLC), which has a very low cure rate. Recently, however, “targeted” therapies have brought new hope to patients with NSCLC. Like all cancers, NSCLC occurs when cells begin to divide uncontrollably because of changes (mutations) in their genetic material. Chemotherapy drugs treat cancer by killing these rapidly dividing cells, but, because some normal tissues are sensitive to these agents, it is hard to kill the cancer completely without causing serious side effects. Targeted therapies specifically attack the changes in cancer cells that allow them to divide uncontrollably, so it might be possible to kill the cancer cells selectively without damaging normal tissues. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGRF) was one of the first molecules for which a targeted therapy was developed. In normal cells, messenger proteins bind to EGFR and activate its “tyrosine kinase,” an enzyme that sticks phosphate groups on tyrosine (an amino acid) in other proteins. These proteins then tell the cell to divide. Alterations to this signaling system drive the uncontrolled growth of some cancers, including NSCLC.
Why Was This Study Done?
Molecules that inhibit the tyrosine kinase activity of EGFR (for example, gefitinib) dramatically shrink some NSCLCs, particularly those in East Asian patients. Tumors shrunk by tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) often (but not always) have mutations in EGFR's tyrosine kinase. However, not all tumors with these mutations respond to TKIs, and other genetic changes—for example, amplification (multiple copies) of the EGFR gene—also affect tumor responses to TKIs. It would be useful to know which genetic changes predict these responses when planning treatments for NSCLC and to understand why the frequency of these changes varies between ethnic groups. In this study, the researchers have examined three polymorphisms—differences in DNA sequences that occur between individuals—in the EGFR gene in people with and without NSCLC. In addition, they have looked for associations between these polymorphisms, which are present in every cell of the body, and the EGFR gene mutations and allelic imbalances (genes occur in pairs but amplification or loss of one copy, or allele, often causes allelic imbalance in tumors) that occur in NSCLCs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured how often three EGFR polymorphisms (the length of a repeat sequence called CA-SSR1, and two single nucleotide variations [SNPs])—all of which probably affect how much protein is made from the EGFR gene—occurred in normal tissue and NSCLC tissue from East Asians and individuals of European descent. They also looked for mutations in the EGFR tyrosine kinase and allelic imbalance in the tumors, and then determined which genetic variations and alterations tended to occur together in people with the same ethnicity. Among many associations, the researchers found that shorter alleles of CA-SSR1 and the minor forms of the two SNPs occurred less often in East Asians than in individuals of European descent. They also confirmed that EGFR kinase mutations were more common in NSCLCs in East Asians than in European-descent individuals. Furthermore, mutations occurred more often in tumors with allelic imbalance, and in tumors where there was allelic imbalance and an EGFR mutation, the mutant allele was amplified more often than the wild-type allele.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers use these associations between gene variants and tumor-associated alterations to propose a model to explain the ethnic differences in mutational frequencies and responses to TKIs seen in NSCLC. They suggest that because of the polymorphisms in the EGFR gene commonly seen in East Asians, people from this ethnic group make less EGFR protein than people from other ethnic groups. This would explain why, if a threshold level of EGFR is needed to drive cells towards malignancy, East Asians have a high frequency of amplified EGFR tyrosine kinase mutations in their tumors—mutation followed by amplification would be needed to activate EGFR signaling. This model, though speculative, helps to explain some clinical findings, such as the frequency of EGFR mutations and of TKI sensitivity in NSCLCs in East Asians. Further studies of this type in different ethnic groups and in different tumors, as well as with other genes for which targeted therapies are available, should help oncologists provide personalized cancer therapies for their patients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040125.
US National Cancer Institute information on lung cancer and on cancer treatment for patients and professionals
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on NSCLC
Cancer Research UK information for patients about all aspects of lung cancer, including treatment with TKIs
Wikipedia pages on lung cancer, EGFR, and gefitinib (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040125
PMCID: PMC1876407  PMID: 17455987
6.  The Need for an Individual Approach to Lung Cancer Treatment 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(4):e206.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030206
PMCID: PMC1455468  PMID: 16626260

Results 1-6 (6)