EGFR Exon-Level Biomarkers of the Response to Bevacizumab/Erlotinib in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

<div><p>Activating epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations are recognized biomarkers for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). EGFR TKIs can also have activity against NSCLC without EGFR mutations, requiring the identification of additional relevant biomarkers. Previous studies on tumor EGFR protein levels and EGFR gene copy number revealed inconsistent results. The aim of the study was to identify novel biomarkers of the response to TKIs in NSCLC by investigating whole genome expression at the exon-level. We used exon arrays and clinical samples from a previous trial (SAKK19/05) to investigate the expression variations at the exon-level of 3 genes potentially playing a key role in modulating treatment response: EGFR, V-Ki-ras2 Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGFA). We identified the expression of EGFR exon 18 as a new predictive marker for patients with untreated metastatic NSCLC treated with bevacizumab and erlotinib in the first line setting. The overexpression of EGFR exon 18 in tumor was significantly associated with tumor shrinkage, independently of EGFR mutation status. A similar significant association could be found in blood samples. In conclusion, exonic EGFR expression particularly in exon 18 was found to be a relevant predictive biomarker for response to bevacizumab and erlotinib. Based on these results, we propose a new model of EGFR testing in tumor and blood.</p></div>