KRAS Testing for Colorectal Cancer

Is Testing Right for Me? I Have My Test Results

KRAS Testing for Colorectal Cancer

EGFR, Cancer, and Targeted Therapy

The Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) is a cell protein that picks up instructions from outside the cell and transmits them inside the cell. These instructions are then sent to other cell proteins to tell the cell what to do: grow, multiply, or die off. Scientists call this process the "EGFR pathway", because one message causes many other things to happen.

EGFR and Cancer

EGFR doesn't work normally in many kinds of cancer cells. Changes or mutations in the EGFR gene can cause the EGFR protein to go into overdrive. When EGFR sends too many signals, including to KRAS, it tells the cell to grow faster and live longer. These signals often lead to out-of-control cell growth and eventual cancer.

EGFR Targeted Therapy

New cancer treatments target and turn off EGFR signals. These therapies use antibodies that recognize only EGFR, stick to it, and block it from sending messages. By interrupting the signals, cancer cells are no longer told to overgrow, and eventually die. These treatments are called EGFR-targeted therapies. Common drugs names are cetuximab (Erbitux®) or panitumumab (Vectibix®). This therapy works well for many patients with advanced colon cancer, but not all.

Next: Treating Advanced Colon Cancer

Do you have advanced colorectal cancer?

Yes

No

Are you considering or are you on anti-EGFR therapy (such as Erbitux® or Vectibix®)?

Yes

No

KRAS gene testing is not likely to be useful for you.

Current medical guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend KRAS gene testing for people with advanced colorectal cancer who are considering anti-EGFR therapy. Although other tumor types have KRAS mutations, KRAS gene testing is only recommended for colorectal cancer.

KRAS gene testing may be useful for you.

Current medical guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend that genetic testing for KRAS mutations should be done for all patients considering or who have recently begun EGFR-targeted therapy with Erbitux® (cetuximab) or Vectibix® (panitumumab) who have advanced colorectal cancer.

KRAS testing can help predict if you will respond to a treatment for colon cancer called EGFR-targeted therapy (Erbitux® or Vectibix®). Patients with a KRAS mutation in their tumor should avoid treatment with these drugs.

The table below sums up how test results can change your care.

Possible Test Results and What They Mean

Test Result Category Chance To Get This Result What This Result Means
KRAS mutation positive About 40%
  • Your colon cancer is not likely to respond to EGFR-targeted therapy.
  • Anti-EGFR therapy may make your condition worse.
  • Medical guidelines recommend avoiding treatment with Erbitux® or Vectibix®.
  • Other kinds of therapy may work better for your tumor.
KRAS mutation negative About 60%
  • Your colon cancer has a good chance of responding to EGFR-targeted therapy.
  • Depending on your situation, EGFR-targeted therapy may be used alone or combined with chemotherapy.
  • If your tumor didn't respond to earlier chemotherapy, or if chemotherapy has stopped working, you may benefit from the addition of EGFR-targeted therapy.

KRAS gene testing may not be useful for you, because you don't have advanced colorectal cancer. Advanced colorectal cancer is the only cancer for which KRAS gene testing is recommended before starting anti-EGFR therapy.

Erbitux®, an anti-EGFR therapy, is also approved for the treatment of certain head and neck cancers. However, current medical guidelines do not recommend KRAS gene testing before starting Erbitux® for these types of cancers.

Current medical guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend KRAS gene testing for people with advanced colorectal cancer who are considering anti-EGFR therapy. Research is being done to find out whether KRAS gene testing might be helpful for other tumor types, but at this time it is not recommended for other cancer types.

KRAS gene testing may not provide information useful to you because you are not considering anti-EGFR therapy.

Current medical guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend KRAS gene testing before starting treatment for all patients with advanced colorectal cancer. However, KRAS gene testing is mostly useful for deciding whether anti-EGFR therapy (Erbitux® or Vectibix®) is appropriate treatment. If anti-EGFR therapy is not being considered for treatment of your cancer, KRAS gene testing probably won't provide you useful information.