Background: Kinases represent potential therapeutic targets in pancreatic endocrine tumours (PETs).
Patients and methods: Thirty-five kinase genes were sequenced in 36 primary PETs and three PET cell lines: (i) 4 receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK), epithelial growth factor receptor (EGFR), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), tyrosine-protein kinase KIT (KIT), platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRalpha); (ii) 6 belonging to the Akt/mTOR pathway; and (iii) 25 frequently mutated in cancers. The immunohistochemical expression of the four RTKs and the copy number of EGFR and HER2 were assessed in 140 PETs.
Results: Somatic mutations were found in KIT in one and ATM in two primary neoplasms. Among 140 PETs, EGFR was immunopositive in 18 (13%), HER2 in 3 (2%), KIT in 16 (11%), and PDGFRalpha in 135 (96%). HER2 amplification was found in 2/130 (1.5%) PETs. KIT membrane immunostaining was significantly associated with tumour aggressiveness and shorter patient survival. PET cell lines QGP1, CM and BON harboured mutations in FGFR3, FLT1/VEGFR1 and PIK3CA, respectively.
Conclusions: Only rare PET cases, harbouring either HER2 amplification or KIT mutation, might benefit from targeted drugs. KIT membrane expression deserves further attention as a prognostic marker. ATM mutation is involved in a proportion of PET. The finding of specific mutations in PET cell lines renders these models useful for preclinical studies involving pathway-specific therapies.