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J Clin Oncol. 2009 Oct 20;27(30):5068-74. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2008.21.3744. Epub 2009 Sep 8.

Amphiregulin and epiregulin mRNA expression in primary tumors predicts outcome in metastatic colorectal cancer treated with cetuximab.

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Department of Pathology, Digestive Oncology Unit, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.



To study the power of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) epiregulin (EREG) and amphiregulin (AREG) ligands' expression in primary tumors to predict the outcome in patients with chemorefractory metastatic colorectal cancer (cmCRC) treated with the combination of cetuximab and irinotecan.


Gene expression measurements and KRAS mutation analysis were performed on archival formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded primary tumors of 220 cmCRC patients. Response was measured using RECIST (Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors) criteria. The relation between ligand expression levels and outcome was evaluated using logistic regression for response and Cox regression for survival data. Receiver operating characteristics analysis was performed for response and survival data. CIs for the performance indices were obtained with a nonparametric bootstrap procedure. Findings were externally validated on a series of 67 samples treated in a similar setting.


In KRAS wild type (WT) patients, there was a significant association between log-transformed ligand expression and response for EREG (odds ratio for objective response, 1.90; 95% CI, 1.27 to 2.83; P = .0005; concordance index [c-index], 0.681) and for AREG (odds ratio for objective response, 1.862; 95% CI, 1.22 to 2.72; P = .0017; c-index, 0.673). In a Cox regression model, dichotomized ligand expression was significantly associated with progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS). EREG PFS hazard ratio (HR) was 0.41 (95% CI, 0.274 to 0.609; P < .001; time-dependent c-index [Ctau index], 0.640), and AREG PFS HR was 0.43 (95% CI, 0.29 to 0.64; P < .001; Ctau index, 0.627). EREG OS HR was 0.42 (95% CI, 0.28 to 0.63; P < .0001; Ctau index, 0.639), and AREG OS HR was 0.40 (95% CI, 0.27 to 0.64; P < .0001; Ctau index, 0.625). There was no predictive power of ligand expression in patients with KRAS mutation.


Expression of EGFR ligands in primary tumors significantly predicts outcome in KRAS WT cmCRC treated with cetuximab and irinotecan.

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