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Cancer. 2018 Apr 1;124(7):1358-1373. doi: 10.1002/cncr.31125. Epub 2018 Jan 16.

Targeting HER2 in colorectal cancer: The landscape of amplification and short variant mutations in ERBB2 and ERBB3.

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Foundation Medicine Inc, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Department of Pathology, Albany Medical Center, Albany, New York.
Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research City of Hope, Duarte, California.



In contrast to lung cancer, few precision treatments are available for colorectal cancer (CRC). One rapidly emerging treatment target in CRC is ERBB2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 [HER2]). Oncogenic alterations in HER2, or its dimerization partner HER3, can underlie sensitivity to HER2-targeted therapies.


In this study, 8887 CRC cases were evaluated by comprehensive genomic profiling for genomic alterations in 315 cancer-related genes, tumor mutational burden, and microsatellite instability. This cohort included both colonic (7599 cases; 85.5%) and rectal (1288 cases; 14.5%) adenocarcinomas.


A total of 569 mCRCs were positive for ERBB2 (429 cases; 4.8%) and/or ERBB3 (148 cases; 1.7%) and featured ERBB amplification, short variant alterations, or a combination of the 2. High tumor mutational burden (≥20 mutations/Mb) was significantly more common in ERBB-mutated samples, and ERBB3-mutated CRCs were significantly more likely to have high microsatellite instability (P<.002). Alterations affecting KRAS (27.3%) were significantly underrepresented in ERBB2-amplified samples compared with wild-type CRC samples (51.8%), and ERBB2- or ERBB3-mutated samples (49.0% and 60.8%, respectively) (P<.01). Other significant differences in mutation frequency were observed for genes in the PI3K/MTOR and mismatch repair pathways.


Although observed less often than in breast or upper gastrointestinal carcinomas, indications for which anti-HER2 therapies are approved, the percentage of CRC with ERBB genomic alterations is significant. Importantly, 32% of ERBB2-positive CRCs harbor short variant alterations that are undetectable by routine immunohistochemistry or fluorescence in situ hybridization testing. The success of anti-HER2 therapies in ongoing clinical trials is a promising development for patients with CRC. Cancer 2018;124:1358-73. © 2018 Foundation Medicine, Inc. Cancer published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of American Cancer Society.


ERBB2, ERBB3; colorectal adenocarcinoma; comprehensive genomic profiling; human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2); lapatinib; microsatellite instability; pertuzumab; trastuzumab; tumor mutational burden

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