Morphologic features of adenocarcinoma of the lung predictive of response to the epidermal growth factor receptor kinase inhibitors erlotinib and gefitinib.
CONTEXT: A subset of lung adenocarcinomas appears preferentially sensitive to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). EGFR-activating mutations and never smoking are associated with response to TKIs. OBJECTIVES: To describe the morphology of adenocarcinomas responsive to TKIs, compare it to tumors in nonresponding patients, and correlate findings with EGFR mutations, gene copy number, and protein expression. DESIGN: Material from 52 EGFR TKI-treated patients was studied: 29 responders and 23 nonresponders. Adenocarcinoma subtypes and morphologic features were defined in histologic and cytologic material. EGFR mutations were detected by sequencing, copy number by chromogenic in situ hybridization, and expression by immunohistochemistry. RESULTS: Tumors from TKI responders tended to be better-differentiated adenocarcinomas with bronchioloalveolar carcinoma components. Nonresponders showed more heterogeneous morphology, higher grade, and more subtypes, and were more likely to show solid growth. In nonresponders, the only pure bronchioloalveolar carcinoma was mucinous, a subtype known to be negative for EGFR mutations. Using World Health Organization criteria, all tumors in both groups other than pure bronchioloalveolar carcinomas would be classified as adenocarcinomas, mixed subtype, thereby obscuring some of these distinctions. EGFR mutations were significantly more common in responders (22/29 vs 0/23; P < .001). Immunohistochemistry and chromogenic in situ hybridization results were not significantly correlated with EGFR mutations or response to TKIs in this study. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, histologic differences exist between tumors that respond to TKIs and those that do not, although sampling affects classification, and there is significant histologic overlap between the 2 groups. Response is strongly associated with EGFR mutations.