About 5% to 8% of NSCLC patients present with 2 or more anatomically separate lung tumors at diagnosis. The distinction between synchronous primary tumors and intrapulmonary metastases has important implications for staging and, thus, treatment strategies.
Arne Warth and colleagues from University Hospital Heidelberg published a single institution study in the June 1, 2012 European Respiratory Journal (abstract) analyzing the clonal relationship between multifocal NSCLC with indistinguishable morphology in a series of 78 patients. Their analysis included LOH analysis of 14 polymorphic microsatellite markers and EGFR and KRAS mutation screening using single-strand conformation polymorphism, followed by direct sequencing of abnormally migrating bands.
This study included 58 adenocarcinomas and 20 squamous cell carcinomas; 59 pT3, 18 pT4, and 1 pM1a. 97.4% of all specimens could be classified as clonal, likely clonal, or non-clonal; only 2 cases were non-informative.
- Tumor nodules of 22 patients (28%) showed divergent LOH status--indicating non-clonal origin. This is a surprising finding--remember this study only included multifocal tumors with indistinguishable morphology.
- Activating EGFR mutations were found in both synchronous tumors in 4/58 ADC but none of the SQC.
- KRAS mutations were found in 20 patients (17 ADC, 3 SQC) but in 6 patients the mutation was identified in only 1 of the tumors and in 1 patient there were divergent EGFR and KRAS mutations.
- With combined allelotyping of LOH and mutational status of EGFR and KRAS, about 36% of cases (28/78 cases) showed evidence that they were not clonally related, including:
- 14/18 ADC and 6/10 SQC located in the same lobe.
- Kaplan-Meier curves illustrating the impact of clonality of multifocal NSCLC on overall survival did not identify a statistically significant difference but did show a tantalizing trend that patients with 2 clonally unrelated tumors have a better OS; notably, this difference did reach statistical significance by univariate analysis.
Practical "take-home" points.
There is no specific anatomical or morphological criteria that reliably indicate a clonal or nonclonal origin of multifocal NSCLC tumors. The authors reasonably recommend performing predictive molecular testing (EGFR and KRAS mutational analysis) or allelotyping separately in all cases with synchronous tumors to identify clonally related tumors. This study presents some intriguing data regarding the prognostic value of identifying nonclonalty, but the prognostic impact of clonality needs to be further analyzed in larger cohorts of NSCLC patients with multifocal synchronous tumors.