Background: Gastric cancer (GC) is a leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Since the approval of trastuzumab, targeted therapies are emerging as promising treatment options for the disease. This study aimed to explore the molecular segmentation of several known therapeutics targets, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), MET and fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2), within GC using clinically approved or investigational kits and scoring criteria. Knowledge of how these markers are segmented in the same cohort of GC patients could improve future clinical trial designs.
Methods: Using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and FISH methods, overexpression and amplification of HER2, FGFR2 and MET were profiled in a cohort of Chinese GC samples. The correlations between anti-tumour sensitivity and the molecular segments of HER2, MET and FGFR2 alterations were further tested in a panel of GC cell lines and the patient-derived GC xenograft (PDGCX) model using the targeted inhibitors.
Results: Of 172 GC patients, positivity for HER2, MET and FGFR2 alternations was found in 23 (13.4%), 21 (12.2%) and 9 (5.2%) patients, respectively. Positivity for MET was found in 3 of 23 HER2-positive GC patients. Co-positivity for FGFR2 and MET was found in 1 GC patient, and amplification of the two genes was found in different tumour cells. Our study in a panel of GC cell lines showed that in most cell lines, amplification or high expression of a particular molecular marker was mutually exclusive and in vitro sensitivity to the targeted agents lapatinib, PD173074 and crizotinib was only observed in cell lines with the corresponding high expression of the drugs' target protein. SGC031, an MET-positive PDGCX mouse model, responded to crizotinib but not to lapatinib or PD173074.
Conclusions: Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, MET and FGFR2 oncogenic driver alterations (gene amplification and overexpression) occur in three largely distinct molecular segments in GC. A significant proportion of HER2-negative patients may potentially benefit from MET- or FGFR2-targeted therapies.