Purpose: The factors affecting survival after gefitinib treatment in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remain to be fully elucidated, although epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation is a substantial prognostic factor. KL-6 has been studied as a useful indicator for interstitial lung diseases; however, it was first discovered as a lung cancer-related antigen. The aim of this study was to investigate the prognostic value of the serum KL-6 levels in advanced NSCLC patients treated with gefitinib and thus determine its association with the EGFR mutation status.
Patients and methods: Between September 2002 and September 2005, 41 patients with NSCLC were treated with gefitinib after having their serum KL-6 levels measured at Okayama University Hospital. EGFR mutations were analyzed by direct sequence methods.
Results: The serum KL-6 levels ranged from 199 to 9080U/ml (median, 550U/ml), and 54% of 41 patients showed a level higher than the cut-off level of 500U/ml. The median progression-free survival (PFS) time and the median overall survival (OS) time were 4.7 months and 13.9 months, respectively. Multivariate analyses revealed that the elevated KL-6 level was an independent adverse prognostic factor for PFS (hazard ratio: 2.278, p=0.040) as well as OS (hazard ratio: 4.858, p=0.002) in NSCLC patients treated with gefitinib. The EGFR mutation status was analyzed in 22 patients (54%). Among those with wild-type EGFR, the patients with high serum KL-6 levels also had a worse survival than those within normal serum KL-6 levels (6.5 months versus 13.3 months, p=0.0194).
Conclusion: Our data suggest that NSCLC patients with high serum KL-6 levels tended to have a poor clinical outcome when treated with gefitinib.