Background: Inhibitors of fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) have recently arisen as a promising treatment option for patients with FGFR alterations. Gene fusions involving FGFR3 and transforming acidic coiled-coil protein 3 (TACC3) have been detected in diffuse gliomas and other malignancies, and fusion-positive cases have responded well to FGFR inhibition. As high FGFR3 expression has been detected in fusion-positive tumors, we sought to determine the clinical significance of FGFR3 protein expression level as well as its potential for indicating FGFR3 fusions.
Methods: We performed FGFR3 immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays containing 676 grades II-IV astrocytomas and 116 grades II-III oligodendroglial tumor specimens. Fifty-one cases were further analyzed using targeted sequencing.
Results: Moderate to strong FGFR3 staining was detected in gliomas of all grades, was more common in females, and was associated with poor survival in diffuse astrocytomas. Targeted sequencing identified FGFR3-TACC3 fusions and an FGFR3-CAMK2A fusion in 10 of 15 strongly stained cases, whereas no fusions were found in 36 negatively to moderately stained cases. Fusion-positive cases were predominantly female and negative for IDH and EGFR/PDGFRA/MET alterations. These and moderately stained cases show lower MIB-1 proliferation index than negatively to weakly stained cases. Furthermore, stronger FGFR3 expression was commonly observed in malignant tissue regions of lower cellularity in fusion-negative cases. Importantly, subregional negative FGFR3 staining was also observed in a few fusion-positive cases.
Conclusions: Strong FGFR3 protein expression is indicative of FGFR3 fusions and may serve as a clinically applicable predictive marker for treatment regimens based on FGFR inhibitors.
Keywords: biomarker; gene fusion; glioblastoma; targeted sequencing.
© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Neuro-Oncology.