Background: RAS variant-related functional impact on the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, and correlation between MAPK activation and MAPK/ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitor responsiveness, is not established.
Patients and methods: Of 1,693 tumours sequenced, 576 harboured a RAS alteration; 62 patients received an MEK inhibitor (MEKi) and had RAS mutations that were functionally characterised. We report that RAS mutants have variable levels of MAPK activity, as measured by a functional cell-based assay that quantified MAPK pathway activation after transfection with a variety of RAS mutations.
Results: Patients with tumours harbouring RAS alterations with high versus low MAPK activity who were treated with an MEKi showed significantly longer median progression-free survival (PFS) (5.0 vs. 2.3 months; p = 0.0034) and overall survival (20.0 vs. 5.0 months; p = 0.0146) and a trend towards higher rates of clinical benefit (stable disease ≥6 months or partial/complete remission) (38% versus 15%; p = 0.095) (p-values as per univariate analysis). PFS remained statistically significant after the multivariate analysis (p = 0.003).
Conclusions: These results support a correlation between RAS-mutant cancers with greater MAPK signalling and PFS after MEKi treatment.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02478931.
Keywords: Cancer; MAPK activity; MEK inhibitor; RAS.
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