The advances made in the therapeutic management of colorectal cancer (CRC) over recent years with the addition of therapies targeting angiogenesis or cell proliferation have positioned bevacizumab, cetuximab, and panitumumab as accepted first-line treatments when combined with FOLFOX or FOLFIRI for RAS wild-type (WT) metastatic CRC. The question has been raised as to the choice of targeted therapy to maximize chances of an optimal outcome. Three studies, the phase III FIRE-3 (AIO KRK-0306), the phase II PEAK, and the recently presented phase III CALGB/SWOG 80405 trial, have addressed this issue face-on, directly comparing the addition of bevacizumab versus cetuximab or panitumumab to FOLFOX/FOLFIRI in terms of efficacy outcomes. None of these studies met their primary endpoint (response rate, progression-free survival or overall survival respectively), meaning we are no closer to being able to categorically define an optimal targeted treatment in the first-line setting for patients with advanced CRC. This led to reflection over study design and further analyses, raising a number of important issues. High-sensitivity analysis of the mutational status of exons identified a population with a "pure" non-RAS-mutated profile showing benefit with anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (anti-EGFR) combinations, particularly in the context of early and greater depth of response. Coherent with a personalized therapeutic approach, the importance of performing individual high-sensitivity extended RAS testing is unequivocal and is currently a requirement in many countries to identify this all-RAS WT population, thus limiting unnecessary exposure and expense in patients unlikely to respond. These three studies, particularly the CALGB/SWOG 80405 trial, mark an important milestone in the roadmap of metastatic CRC treatment, highlighting the need for close analysis to fully exploit the available data.
Keywords: Bevacizumab; Cetuximab; Colorectal cancer; Panitumumab.