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J Clin Pathol. 2012 Jan;65(1):1-7. doi: 10.1136/jclinpath-2011-200275. Epub 2011 Oct 29.

The role of the molecular footprint of EGFR in tailoring treatment decisions in NSCLC.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Medicine, Institute of Molecular Medicine, St James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.


The majority of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) present with advanced disease, with targeted therapies providing some improvement in clinical outcomes. The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase (TK) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of NSCLC. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), which target the EGFR TK domain, have proven to be an effective treatment strategy; however, patient responses to treatment vary considerably. Therefore, the identification of patients most likely to respond to treatment is essential to optimise the benefit of TKIs. Tumour-associated activating mutations in EGFR can identify patients with NSCLC who are likely to have a good response to TKIs. Nonetheless, the majority of patients relapse within a year of starting treatment. Studies of tumours at relapse have demonstrated expression of a T790M mutation in exon 20 of the EGFR TK domain in approximately 50% of cases. Although conferring resistance to reversible TKIs, these patients may remain sensitive to new-generation irreversible/pan-erb inhibitors. A number of techniques have been employed for genotypic assessment of tumour-associated DNA to identify EGFR mutations, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. This review presents an overview of the current methodologies used to identify such molecular markers. Recent developments in technology may make the monitoring of changes in patients' tumour genotypes easier in clinical practice, which may enable patients' treatment regimens to be tailored during the course of their disease, potentially leading to improved patient outcomes.

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