Purpose: In a recent phase II study of onartuzumab (MetMAb), patients whose non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tissue scored as positive for MET protein by immunohistochemistry (IHC) experienced a significant benefit with onartuzumab plus erlotinib (O+E) versus erlotinib. We describe development and validation of a standardized MET IHC assay and, retrospectively, evaluate multiple biomarkers as predictors of patient benefit.
Experimental design: Biomarkers related to MET and/or EGF receptor (EGFR) signaling were measured by IHC, FISH, quantitative reverse transcription PCR, mutation detection techniques, and ELISA.
Results: A positive correlation between IHC, Western blotting, and MET mRNA expression was observed in NSCLC cell lines/tissues. An IHC scoring system of MET expression taking proportional and intensity-based thresholds into consideration was applied in an analysis of the phase II study and resulted in the best differentiation of outcomes. Further analyses revealed a nonsignificant overall survival (OS) improvement with O+E in patients with high MET copy number (mean≥5 copies/cell by FISH); however, benefit was maintained in "MET IHC-positive"/MET FISH-negative patients (HR, 0.37; P=0.01). MET, EGFR, amphiregulin, epiregulin, or HGF mRNA expression did not predict a significant benefit with onartuzumab; a nonsignificant OS improvement was observed in patients with high tumor MET mRNA levels (HR, 0.59; P=0.23). Patients with low baseline plasma hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) exhibited an HR for OS of 0.519 (P=0.09) in favor of onartuzumab treatment.
Conclusions: MET IHC remains the most robust predictor of OS and progression-free survival benefit from O+E relative to all examined exploratory markers.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01456325.
©2014 American Association for Cancer Research.