Background: Ligands of transmembrane receptor tyrosine kinases have important roles in cell proliferation, survival, migration and differentiation in solid tumours. We conducted this study to evaluate the relationship between concentration of serum ligands and prognosis of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) treated with anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antibodies.
Methods: Between August 2008 and August 2011, serum samples were obtained from KRAS wild-type patients who met the inclusion criteria and received an anti-EGFR antibody treatment. Serum concentration of ligands was measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and somatic mutations of KRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA and BRAF were analysed by direct sequencing.
Results: A total of 103 patients were enrolled in the present study. At the pretreatment serum levels, patients with high levels of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) had shorter progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) compared with those with low levels of HGF (median PFS: 6.4 months vs 4.4 months; P<0.001, median OS: 15.3 months vs 8.0 months; P<0.001, respectively). Patients with high levels of epiregulin (EREG) also had shorter PFS and OS compared with those with low levels of EREG (median PFS: 6.6 months vs 4.9 months; P=0.016, median OS: 13.8 months vs 7.4 months; P=0.048, respectively). In addition, patients whose serum levels of ligands were elevated at progressive disease had shorter PFS and OS compared with other patients.
Conclusions: Our study indicated that high levels of HGF and EREG were associated with resistance to treatment with anti-EGFR antibodies in KRAS wild-type patients with mCRC. Our findings will contribute to the newly combination therapy on the treatment of anti-EGFR antibodies.