A pilot characterization of human lung NSCLC by protein pathway activation mapping

J Thorac Oncol. 2012 Dec;7(12):1755-1766. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e3182725fc7.


Background: An understanding of the activated protein signaling architecture in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is of critical importance to the development of new therapeutic approaches and identification of predictive and prognostic biomarkers for patient stratification.

Methods: We used reverse-phase protein microarrays to map the activated protein signaling networks of 47 NSCLC tumors, 28 of which were node negative, which were subjected to tumor cellular enrichment using laser capture microdissection. The phosphorylation/cleavage levels of 111 key signaling proteins and total levels of 17 proteins were measured for broadscale signaling analysis.

Results: Pathway activation mapping of NSCLC revealed distinct subgroups composed of epidermal growth factor receptor (ERBB1), v-erb-b2 erythroblastic leukemia viral oncogene homolog 2 (ERBB2), v-erb-b2 erythroblastic leukemia viral oncogene homolog 3 (ERBB3), v-erb-a erythroblastic leukemia viral oncogene homolog 4 (ERBB4), v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog 1- mammalian target of rapamycin (AKT-mTOR), protein kinase, AMP-activated, alpha 2 catalytic subunit (AMPK), and autophagy-related signaling, along with transforming growth factor-beta-signaling protein 1 (SMAD), insulin-line growth factor receptor (IGFR), rearranged during transfection proto-oncogene (RET), and activated CDC42-associated kinase (ACK) activation. Investigation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-driven signaling identified a unique cohort of tumors with low EGFR protein expression yet high relative levels of phosphorylated EGFR and high EGFR total protein with low relative levels of phosphorylation. Last, mapping analysis of patients with NSCLC with N0 disease revealed a pilot pathway activation signature composed of linked epidermal growth factor receptor family (HER)-AMPK-AKT-mTOR signaling network along with focal adhesion kinase- LIM domain kinase-1 (FAK-LIMK) and janus kinase (JAK)-signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) pathways that correlated with short-term survival and aggressive disease.

Conclusions: Functional protein pathway activation mapping of NSCLC reveals distinct activation subgroups that are underpinned by important therapeutic targets and that patients with early-stage node negative disease and poor prognosis may be identified by activation of defined, biochemically linked protein signaling events. Such findings, if confirmed in larger study sets, could help select and stratify patients for personalized targeted therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laser Capture Microdissection
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Phosphorylation
  • Prognosis
  • Protein Array Analysis
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Survival Rate


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MAS1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors