EGFR amplification and outcome in a randomised phase III trial of chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus panitumumab for advanced gastro-oesophageal cancers.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibition may be effective in biomarker-selected populations of advanced gastro-oesophageal adenocarcinoma (aGEA) patients. Here, we tested the association between outcome and EGFR copy number (CN) in pretreatment tissue and plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) of patients enrolled in a randomised first-line phase III clinical trial of chemotherapy or chemotherapy plus the anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody panitumumab in aGEA (NCT00824785).EGFR CN by either fluorescence in situ hybridisation (n=114) or digital-droplet PCR in tissues (n=250) and plasma cfDNAs (n=354) was available for 474 (86%) patients in the intention-to-treat (ITT) population. Tissue and plasma low-pass whole-genome sequencing was used to screen for coamplifications in receptor tyrosine kinases. Interaction between chemotherapy and EGFR inhibitors was modelled in patient-derived organoids (PDOs) from aGEA patients.EGFR amplification in cfDNA correlated with poor survival in the ITT population and similar trends were observed when the analysis was conducted in tissue and plasma by treatment arm. EGFR inhibition in combination with chemotherapy did not correlate with improved survival, even in patients with significant EGFR CN gains. Addition of anti-EGFR inhibitors to the chemotherapy agent epirubicin in PDOs, resulted in a paradoxical increase in viability and accelerated progression through the cell cycle, associated with p21 and cyclin B1 downregulation and cyclin E1 upregulation, selectively in organoids from EGFR-amplified aGEA.EGFR CN can be accurately measured in tissue and liquid biopsies and may be used for the selection of aGEA patients. EGFR inhibitors may antagonise the antitumour effect of anthracyclines with important implications for the design of future combinatorial trials.