Molecular determinants of anti-EGFR sensitivity and resistance in metastatic colorectal cancer

Br J Cancer. 2010 Dec 7;103(12):1765-72. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6606008. Epub 2010 Nov 23.


Since 2004, the clinical impact of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) on patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (MCRC) has been clearly established. The combination of these biological agents with conventional chemotherapy has led to a significant improvement in response rate, progression-free survival and overall survival in first-line as well as in second- or third-line treatment of MCRC. However, the high variability of response and outcome in MCRC patients treated with these anti-EGFR mAbs has highlighted the need of identifying clinical and/or molecular predictive markers to ensure appropriate use of targeted therapies. The presence of somatic KRAS mutations has been clearly identified as a predictive marker of resistance to anti-EGFR in MCRC, and the use of anti-EGFR mAbs is now restricted to patients with no detectable KRAS mutation. Several studies have indicated that amplification of EGFR, overexpression of the EGFR ligands and inactivation of the anti-oncogene TP53 are associated with sensitivity to anti-EGFR mAbs, whereas mutations of BRAF and PIK3CA and loss of PTEN expression are associated with resistance. Besides these somatic variations, germline polymorphisms such as those affecting genes involved in the EGFR pathway or within the immunoglobulin receptors may also modulate response to anti-EGFR mAbs. Until now, all these markers are not completely validated and only KRAS genotyping is mandatory in routine practice for use of the anti-EGFR mAbs in MCRC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • ErbB Receptors / physiology
  • Genes, p53
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / physiology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / physiology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • Signal Transduction
  • ras Proteins / genetics


  • KRAS protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PIK3CA protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • PTEN protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • ras Proteins