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KRAS testing in metastatic colorectal carcinoma: challenges, controversies, breakthroughs and beyond
  1. Umberto Malapelle1,
  2. Chiara Carlomagno2,
  3. Caterina de Luca1,
  4. Claudio Bellevicine1,
  5. Giancarlo Troncone1
  1. 1Department of Public Health, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy
  2. 2Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Professor Giancarlo Troncone, Dipartimento di Sanità Pubblica, Università di Napoli Federico II, via Sergio Pansini 5, Napoli I-80131, Italy; giancarlo.troncone{at}


Metastatic colorectal cancer harbouring a mutation in codon 12 or 13 of the KRAS gene does not benefit from therapy with antibodies targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). The implementation of community KRAS testing is generating a rapid flow of new data that have implications for the pathologist and testing guidelines besides the physician. Therefore, it seems timely to draw together the threads of this large body of information in order that pathologists can be knowledgeable partners in the multidisciplinary process of targeted cancer therapy and to help refine current testing guidelines. This review addresses (1) the most relevant methodological and technical aspects of KRAS testing in terms of sample site (primary/metastatic), test specimens (resection/biopsy/cytology) and the diverse molecular methods available; (2) the issues related to daily practice, namely, the timing of the test, its turnaround time and the quality control procedures; and (3) the evidence related to the relationship between KRAS genetic intratumoural heterogeneity, clinical sensitivity of mutational detection tools and anti-EGFR treatment outcome. Hopefully, in the near future, elucidation of the potential of biomarker panels and of the mechanisms underlying primary and acquired resistance to anti-EGFR therapy will refine even further personalised treatment regimens for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

  • EGFR

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