Discordance of molecular biomarkers associated with epidermal growth factor receptor pathway between primary tumors and lymph node metastasis in non-small cell lung cancer

J Thorac Oncol. 2009 Jul;4(7):809-15. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e3181a94af4.


Introduction: For the identification of the patients who most likely benefit from epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), molecular assays are considered to be of paramount importance. Given the heterogeneity of NSCLC at the molecular level, this study was conducted to determine the discrepancy in EGFR mutations between primary tumors and the corresponding lymph node metastasis.

Patients and methods: Surgically resected 101 paired primary NSCLC and metastatic lymph nodes were evaluated for the EGFR mutations by direct DNA sequencing and heteroduplex analysis.

Results: EGFR mutation was detected in 29.7% (30 of 101) of the primary tumors and in 27.7% of lymph node metastases (28 of 101) by either direct sequencing or heteroduplex analysis, respectively. By direct sequencing, 12 cases (11.9%) showed discordance in EGFR mutations between primary tumors and metastasis. In 11 cases, EGFR mutations were detected only in the primary tumor, whereas 1 case only in lymph node metastases. By heteroduplex analysis, 17 cases (16.8%) were discordant. Ten cases were primary tumor positive and lymph node negative, whereas seven cases were lymph node positive and primary tumor negative.

Conclusions: A considerable proportion of NSCLC showed discrepancy in EGFR mutations between primary tumors and metastatic lymph nodes, suggesting tumor heterogeneity at the molecular level during the process of metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Female
  • Heteroduplex Analysis
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / genetics*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • ErbB Receptors