A molecularly annotated platform of patient- derived xenografts ("xenopatients") identifies HER2 as an effective therapeutic target in cetuximab-resistant colorectal cancer

Andrea Bertotti, Giorgia Migliardi, Francesco Galimi, Francesco Sassi, Davide Torti, Claudio Isella, Davide Corà, Federica di Nicolantonio, Michela Buscarino, Consalvo Petti, Dario Ribero, Nadia Russolillo, Andrea Muratore, Paolo Massucco, Alberto Pisacane, Luca Molinaro, Emanuele Valtorta, Andrea Sartore-Bianchi, Mauro Risio, Lorenzo CapussottiMarcello Gambacorta, Salvatore Siena, Enzo Medico, Anna Sapino, Silvia Marsoni, Paolo M. Comoglio, Alberto Bardelli, Livio Trusolino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Only a fraction of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer receive clinical benefit from therapy with anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antibodies, which calls for the identification of novel biomarkers for better personalized medicine. We produced large xenograft cohorts from 85 patient-derived, genetically characterized metastatic colorectal cancer samples ("xenopatients") to discover novel determinants of therapeutic response and new oncoprotein targets. Serially passaged tumors retained the morphologic and genomic features of their original counterparts. A validation trial confirmed the robustness of this approach: xenopatients responded to the anti-EGFR antibody cetuximab with rates and extents analogous to those observed in the clinic and could be prospectively stratified as responders or nonresponders on the basis of several predictive biomarkers. Genotype-response correlations indicated HER2 amplification specifically in a subset of cetuximab-resistant, KRAS/NRAS/BRAF/PIK3CA wild-type cases. Importantly, HER2 amplification was also enriched in clinically nonresponsive KRAS wild-type patients. A proof-of-concept, multiarm study in HER2-amplified xenopatients revealed that the combined inhibition of HER2 and EGFR induced overt, long-lasting tumor regression. Our results suggest promising therapeutic opportunities in cetuximab-resistant patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, whose medical treatment in the chemorefractory setting remains an unmet clinical need. sIGnIfICAnCE: Direct transfer xenografts of tumor surgical specimens conserve the interindividual diversity and the genetic heterogeneity typical of the tumors of origin, combining the flexibility of preclinical analysis with the informative value of population-based studies. Our suite of patientderived xenografts from metastatic colorectal carcinomas reliably mimicked disease response in humans, prospectively recapitulated biomarker-based case stratification, and identified HER2 as a predictor of resistance to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor antibodies and of response to combination therapies against HER2 and epidermal growth factor receptor in this tumor setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-523
Number of pages16
JournalCancer Discovery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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