Gene signatures and expression of miRNAs associated with efficacy of panitumumab in a head and neck cancer phase II trial

Marco Siano, Vittoria Espeli, Nicolas Mach, Paolo Bossi, Lisa Licitra, Michele Ghielmini, Milo Frattini, Silvana Canevari, Loris De Cecco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Platinum-based chemotherapy plus the anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody (mAb) cetuximab is used to treat recurrent/metastatic (RM) head-neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Recently, we defined Cluster3 gene-expression signature as a potential predictor of favorable progression-free survival (PFS) in cetuximab-treated RM-HNSCC patients and predictor of partial metabolic FDG-PET response in an afatinib window-of-opportunity trial. Another anti-EGFR-mAb (panitumumab) was used as the treatment agent in RM-HNSCC patients in the phase II PANI01trial. PANI01 tumor samples were analyzed using functional genomics to explore response predictors to anti-EGFR therapy.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Whole-gene expression and real-time PCR analyses were applied to pre-treatment samples from 25 PANI01 patients. Three gene signatures (Cluster3 score, RAS onco-signature, microenvironment score) and seven selected miRNAs were separately analyzed for association with panitumumab efficacy.

RESULTS: Cluster3 expression levels had a profile with a significant bimodal separation of samples (P =  3.08 E-13). Higher RAS activation, microenvironment score, and miRNA expression were associated with low-Cluster3 patients. The same biomarkers were separately associated with PFS. Patients with high-Cluster3 had significantly longer PFS than patients with low-Cluster3 (median PFS: 174 versus 51 days; log-rank P = 0.0021). ROC analysis demonstrated accuracy in predicting PFS (AUC = 0.877).

CONCLUSIONS: Despite differences in clinical settings and anti-EGFR inhibitors used for treatment, response prediction by the Cluster3 signature and selected miRNAs was essentially the same. Translation into a useful clinical assay requires validation in a broader setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-151
Number of pages8
JournalOral Oncology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


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