Purpose: To evaluate the role of pretreatment and posttreatment expression in buccal mucosa cells of signal transduction proteins activated by epidermal growth factor receptor, including phosphorylated epidermal growth factor receptor (p-EGFR), phosphorylated mitogen-activated protein kinase (p-MAPK), and phosphorylated AKT (p-AKT), in predicting gefitinib activity in advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients. Expression of the same proteins was also assessed on corresponding tissue samples for comparison. Moreover, EGFR gene mutations and copy number were analyzed. Experimental Design: Protein expression was evaluated by standard immunocytochemistry in buccal smears, obtained by scraping immediately before and after 2 weeks of gefitinib treatment, and in the available archival tumor specimens. EGFR gene mutations were evaluated by direct sequencing and gene copy number was determined by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Data were correlated with gefitinib toxicity and objective response. Results: Fifty-eight patients with pretreated advanced non-small cell lung cancer were enrolled and nine of these patients (15%) showed an objective response to gefitinib (including two complete responses). Toxicity (P = 0.025) and baseline p-AKT expression in buccal mucosa cells (P = 0.061) showed a potential predictive role. On the contrary, the probability of achieving an objective response was not affected by pretreatment expression of EGFR, p-EGFR, and p-MAPK, either in buccal mucosa or in tumor tissue. Responders showed a nonstatistically significant trend toward a more pronounced reduction in the expression of p-EGFR, p-MAPK, and p-AKT after gefitinib treatment. Among responders, five of six (83%) tumors showed EGFR gene mutation, whereas none of the tumors from patients with stable or progressive disease did (P <0.001). Conclusions: Epithelial cells obtained from buccal mucosa may be used to assess the pharmacodynamic effect of EGFR-targeted agents, and pretreatment p-AKT expression may be a possible predictive biomarker of in vivo gefitinib activity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research