Background: The incidence of renal cell cancer (RCC) has been increasing for the past decade, and the 5-year survival for patients with metastatic RCC (mRCC) is rather low. Everolimus (RAD001), a new inhibitor for mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), is generally well tolerated, and demonstrates clinical benefit to patients with anti-VEGF-refractory mRCC. However, factors for selection of patients who may benefit from everolimus remain largely unknown. Here we aimed to explore potential molecular indicators for mRCC patients who may benefit from everolimus treatment.
Methods: Paraffin-embedded tumor tissue specimens derived from 18 mRCC patients before everolimus treatment, who participated the phase 1b trial of everolimus in VEGF receptor (VEGFR)-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-refractory Chinese patients with mRCC (clinicaltrials.gov, NCT01152801), were examined for the expression levels of phosphorylated AKT, mTOR, eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) binding protein-1 (4EBP1) and 40S ribosomal protein S6 (S6RP) by immunohistochemistry. Clinical benefit rate (complete response [CR], partial response [PR], plus stable disease [SD] ≥ 6 months) and progression-free survival time (PFS) were correlated with expression levels of these mTOR-associated molecules.
Results: In these 18 patients, there were 1 PR, 15 SDs (including 9 SDs ≥ 6 months), and 2 progressive diseases (PD). The clinical benefit rate (CBR) was 55.6% (10/18), and the median PFS time was 8.4 months. Patients with positive expression of phospho-mTOR showed a better CBR (71.4% versus 0%, P = 0.023) and PFS time (11.3 versus 3.7 months, P = 0.001) than those patients with negative expression. The median PFS of patients with positive phospho-S6RP expression was longer (11.3 versus 3.7 months, P = 0.002) than that of patients negative for phospho-S6RP expression. However, expression levels of phospho-4EBP1 and phospho-AKT were unassociated to efficacy of everolimus treatment with respect to CBR and PFS. Co-expression of phosphorylated mTOR, S6RP and/or 4EBP1 may improve the predictive value of the biomarkers for patients treated with everolimus.
Conclusions: The expression levels of phospho-mTOR and phospho-S6RP may be potential predictive biomarkers for efficacy of everolimus in patients with mRCC. Combining examinations of phosphorylated mTOR, S6RP and/or 4EBP1 may be a potential strategy to select mRCC patients sensitive to mTOR inhibitor treatment.