Background: Genetic alterations within the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway, including KRAS mutations, have been demonstrated to be associated with response to EGFR inhibitors like cetuximab in colorectal cancers. Mutations in the KRAS gene have been found in 70-90% of pancreatic cancers. Unfortunately, the addition of cetuximab to chemotherapy did not increase response or survival in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer in phase II and phase III studies. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between KRAS mutations and response or survival in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer treated with cetuximab plus chemotherapy.
Methods: Within a multicenter phase II trial, 64 patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer were treated with cetuximab in combination with gemcitabine and oxaliplatin until disease progression. Analyses of the EGFR pathway, including KRAS mutations, could be performed in 25 patients. Analyses were carried out following microdissection of the tumor.
Results: Fourteen (56%) of the 25 patients examined harbored a point mutation in codon 12 of the KRAS gene. No differences between the groups were noted in median progression-free survival (104 days in KRAS wild-type patients vs. 118 days in patients with KRAS mutations). Overall survival was longer in wild-type patients compared to patients with KRAS mutations (263 vs. 162 days), but the difference did not reach statistical significance. A further analysis of our clinical phase II trial showed that the presence of a rash was significantly correlated with overall survival.
Conclusions: KRAS mutation in codon 12 may be associated with reduced survival compared to KRAS wild type. The role of KRAS mutations for cetuximab therapy in pancreatic cancer warrants further investigation in larger trials to exclude an epiphenomenon. Furthermore, the development of a rash is indicative of clinical benefit.
Copyright © 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel.