Cytokeratin 19 Fragment Predicts the Efficacy of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor–Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor in Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer Harboring EGFR Mutation

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EGFR gene mutation is independently associated with a favorable response in non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients receiving epidermal growth factor receptor -tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs), regardless of sex or smoking history. Squamous cell carcinoma patients harboring EGFR mutations show a significantly worse response to EGFR-TKIs compared with adenocarcinoma patients. We hypothesized that the serum cytokeratin 19 fragment (CYFRA 21-1) is associated with the efficacy of EGFR-TKIs in EGFR-mutated NSCLC patients.


We retrospectively screened 160 NSCLC patients harboring EGFR mutations, who had received either gefitinib, or erlotinib between 1992 and 2011. Patients were screened for clinical characteristics, the efficacy of EGFR-TKI, and tumor markers (carcinoembryonic antigen [CEA]/CYFRA 21-1) at the initial diagnosis.


Of 160 eligible patients treated with EGFR-TKIs, 77 patients with high CYFRA 21-1 level (>2 ng/ml) showed significantly shorter progression-free survival (PFS) than the 83 patients with normal CYFRA 21-1 level (median PFS, 7.5 versus 13.3 months; p < 0.001). No significant difference in PFS was observed between the high-CEA group (>5 ng/ml) and the normal-CEA group (median PFS, 8.6 versus 11.2 months; p = 0.242). A multivariate analysis revealed that high CYFRA 21-1 level is independently associated with PFS (hazard ratio, 1.27; p = 0.002). No significant difference in overall survival was observed between the high- and the normal-CYFRA 21-1 groups (median overall survival, 24.8 versus 39.1 months; p = 0.104).


Patients with a high CYFRA 21-1 level have significantly shorter PFS. CYFRA 21-1 is not a prognostic but a predictive marker of EGFR-TKI treatment in EGFR-mutated NSCLC patients.

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