Background: Identification of appropriate markers for predicting clinical benefit with erlotinib in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) may be able to guide patient selection for treatment. This open-label, multicentre, phase II trial aimed to identify genes with potential use as biomarkers for clinical benefit from erlotinib therapy. Methods: Adults with stage IIIb/IV NSCLC in whom one or more chemotherapy regimen had failed were treated with erlotinib (150 mg/day). Tumour biopsies were analysed using gene expression profiling with Affymetrix GeneChip® microarrays. Differentially expressed genes were verified using quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR). Results: A total of 264 patients were enrolled in the study. Gene expression profiles found no statistically significant differentially expressed genes between patients with and without clinical benefit. In an exploratory analysis in responding versus nonresponding patients, three genes on chromosome 7 were expressed at higher levels in the responding group [epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), phosphoserine phosphatase (PSPH) and Rap guanine nucleotide exchange factor 5 (RAPGEF5)]. Independent quantification using qRT-PCR validated the association between EGFR and PSPH overexpression, but not RAPGEF5 overexpression, and clinical outcome. Conclusions: This study supports the use of erlotinib as an alternative to chemotherapy for patients with relapsed advanced NSCLC. Genetic amplification of the EGFR region of chromosome 7 may be associated with response to erlotinib therapy.
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