Presence of gene mutation tightly linked to drug effectiveness in lung cancer

merican patients, which raises the question of genetic variation in different ethnic, cultural, and geographic groups to this particular drug," said Bruce E. Johnson, M.D., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who led the Lung Cancer Biology Section at NCI before leaving for Dana-Farber.

To conduct the study, researchers examined 58 lung cancer tumors from Japan (Nagoya City University Hospital) and 61 tumors from the United States (Harvard Medical School). They also examined additional tumors from U.S. patients who had demonstrated a response to gefitinib. The presence of EGFR mutations and the best clinical response to gefitinib therapy occurred most frequently in women, non-smokers, and in patients with a certain type of lung cancer called adenocarcinoma.

Gene mutations were seen in 26 percent of Japanese NSCLC cancer patients vs. only 2 percent of American patients. Japanese women with adenocarcinoma showed the highest percentage of EGFR mutations (57 percent) and also showed the best clinical response to gefitinib. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and worldwide for both men and women.

"This is another example of successfully exploiting our ever-increasing understanding of the genetic aberrations of cancer," said Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., director, NCI. Understanding how to maximize the benefits of anti-EGFR treatments should improve the outcome for many patients with lung cancer. In addition, the larger percentage of EGFR mutations in patients from Japan compared to the United States is striking and raises many unanswered questions, suggesting new avenues for basic research, as well as new considerations in the design of clinical trials.


Contact: NCI Press Office
NIH/National Cancer Institute

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