KRAS amplification in metastatic colon cancer is associated with a history of inflammatory bowel disease and may confer resistance to anti-EGFR therapy

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Modern pathology


Mutations in RAS occur in 30-50% of metastatic colorectal carcinomas (mCRCs) and correlate with resistance to anti-EGFR therapy. Consequently, mCRC biomarker guidelines state RAS mutational testing should be performed when considering EGFR inhibitor treatment. However, a small subset of mCRCs are reported to harbor RAS amplification. In order to elucidate the clinicopathologic features and anti-EGFR treatment response associated with RAS amplification, we retrospectively reviewed a large cohort of mCRC patients that underwent targeted next-generation sequencing and copy number analysis for KRAS, NRAS, HRAS, BRAF, and PIK3CA. Molecular testing was performed on 1286 consecutive mCRC from 1271 patients as part of routine clinical care, and results were correlated with clinicopathologic findings, mismatch repair (MMR) status and follow-up. RAS amplification was detected in 22 (2%) mCRCs and included: KRAS, NRAS, and HRAS for 15, 5, and 2 cases, respectively (6-21 gene copies). Patients with a KRAS-amplified mCRC were more likely to report a history of inflammatory bowel disease (p < 0.001). In contrast, mutations in KRAS were associated with older patient age, right-sided colonic origin, low-grade differentiation, mucinous histology, and MMR proficiency (p ≤ 0.017). Four patients with a KRAS-amplified mCRC and no concomitant RAS/BRAF/PIK3CA mutations received EGFR inhibitor-based therapy, and none demonstrated a clinicoradiographic response. The therapeutic impact of RAS amplification was further evaluated using a separate, multi-institutional cohort of 23 patients. Eight of 23 patients with KRAS-amplified mCRC received anti-EGFR therapy and all 8 patients exhibited disease progression on treatment. Although the number of KRAS-amplified mCRCs is limited, our data suggest the clinicopathologic features associated with mCRC harboring a KRAS amplification are distinct from those associated with a KRAS mutation. However, both alterations seem to confer EGFR inhibitor resistance and, therefore, RAS testing to include copy number analyses may be of consideration in the treatment of mCRC.

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ePub ahead of print