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Aparna Parikh, Chloe Atreya, W. Michael Korn and Alan P. Venook

HER2 gene amplifications and activating mutations in the HER2 receptor tyrosine kinase are present in 4% of metastatic colorectal cancers (mCRCs). HER2-targeted therapy is not standard of care, although preclinical and clinical data suggest that patients with HER2 amplifications and/or HER2-activating mutations may benefit from HER2-directed therapy. HER2 amplifications and activating mutations have also been implicated in resistance to anti–epidermal growth factor receptor–based therapy. This report describes a patient with KRAS, NRAS, and BRAF wild-type mCRC who experienced disease progression on first-line treatment with FOLFIRI and cetuximab after only 5 months, and subsequently experienced progression on second-line treatment with capecitabine and oxaliplatin plus bevacizumab after 2 months with significant functional decline. Next-generation sequencing of the primary tumor identified HER2 amplification, and we were able to obtain trastuzumab-DM1 for off-label use. The patient had symptomatic clinical benefit from trastuzumab-DM1 and had radiographic disease control for 7 months. On progression, therapy was changed to trastuzumab and pertuzumab, but the patient's disease progressed 3 months later. Treatment with the trastuzumab-DM1 resulted in a sustained response that was longer than his prior responses in the first and second lines of treatment, with a dramatic improvement in the patient's functional status. This case represents the first report, to our knowledge, of successful single-agent treatment of HER2-amplifed CRC with trastuzumab-DM1. Clinical trials targeting patients with HER2-mutated and -amplified metastatic colon cancer are currently underway. Molecular insights from investigating HER2 activation and the impact of HER2-directed therapies in a wide variety of solid tumors will create the needed evidence base to more broadly inform patient care.

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Robin K. Kelley, Chloe Atreya, Alan P. Venook and Phillip G. Febbo

Because of a surge in molecular testing capabilities concurrent with the rising numbers of targeted therapies in clinical development, the commercial use of predictive biomarkers before clinical validation is available is a topic of growing relevance to medical oncologists. Increasingly, patients will present questions about, requests for, and results from commercial biomarker tests for their oncologists to address. The sheer numbers of tests reaching the market, along with forecasted American Medical Association reforms in current procedural terminology coding and increasing FDA oversight of in vitro companion diagnostic device development, are likely to draw intense scrutiny to the regulation of commercial molecular testing in the near future, which will also require clinicians to remain abreast of the level of clinical validation of the biomarker tests available in practice. In addition to the direct risks of novel biomarker testing, including financial cost and ethical issues, the indirect risks encompass those associated with any clinical decision based on the biomarker test results. A great need exists for comprehensive and dynamic practice guidelines for all types of biomarker testing according to tumor type.

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Chloe E. Atreya, Claire Greene, Ryan M. McWhirter, Nabia S. Ikram, I. Elaine Allen, Katherine Van Loon, Alan P. Venook, Benjamin M. Yeh and Spencer C. Behr

Background: BRAF-mutant metastatic colorectal cancers (mCRCs) share many clinicopathologic features with right-sided colon tumors, including frequent peritoneal involvement. Because of the poorer outcomes associated with BRAF mutations, early enrollment in clinical trials has been encouraged. However, the use of standard eligibility and assessment criteria, such as measurable disease, has anecdotally impeded patient accrual and restricted appraisal of treatment response. We investigated whether the presence of a BRAF V600E mutation is differentially associated with sites and appearance of metastatic disease in patients matched by primary tumor location. Methods: A total of 40 patients with BRAF-mutant mCRC were matched to 80 patients with BRAF wild-type mCRC by location of primary tumor (right or left colon; rectum), sex, and age. Associations between BRAF mutation status and clinicopathologic characteristics and metastatic sites were analyzed using proportion tests. Survival was summarized with Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression methods. Results: The distribution of primary tumor locations was: 60% right colon, 30% left colon, and 10% rectum. Compared with BRAF wild-type tumors, BRAF-mutant tumors more commonly associated with peritoneal metastases (50% vs 31%; P=.045) and ascites (50% vs 24%; P=.0038). In patients with left colon primaries, BRAF mutations were associated with more frequent ascites (58% vs 12%; P=.0038) and less frequent liver metastases (42% vs 79%; P=.024). Among patients with right colon primaries, no significant difference in sites of disease by BRAF mutation status was observed. Disease was not measurable by RECIST 1.1 in 24% of patients with right-sided primary tumors, irrespective of BRAF mutation status. In the BRAF-mutated cohort, ascites correlated unfavorably with survival (hazard ratio, 2.35; 95% CI, 1.14, 4.83; P=.02). Conclusions: Greater frequency of ascites and peritoneal metastases, which pose challenges for RECIST 1.1 interpretation of therapeutic outcomes, are seen with BRAF-mutant mCRC, even when patients are matched for primary tumor location.