Test Center

My Recent Searches

  • No Recent Search.

My Tests Viewed

  • No Test Viewed.

Lung Cancer Mutation Panel (EGFR, KRAS, ALK)

Lung Cancer Mutation Panel (EGFR, KRAS, ALK)

Test Summary

Lung Cancer Mutation Panel (EGFR, KRAS, ALK)


Clinical Use

  • Assess eligibility for non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) targeted therapies

Clinical Background

Non–small cell lung cancer accounts for more than 85% of lung cancers and includes predominantly adenocarcinomas (the most common type in the United States) and squamous cell carcinomas.1 Depending on the patient’s medical status and stage of disease, treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Although cytotoxic chemotherapy remains an important part of treatment, targeted therapies based on genetic alterations in the tumor are appropriate for selected cases. Identifying mutations in oncogenes associated with non-squamous NSCLC can help determine which patients are more likely to benefit from a targeted therapy. Such oncogenes include EGFR, KRAS, and ALK.


Activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein stimulates protein tyrosine kinase, which leads to activation of signaling pathways associated with cell growth and survival. Both EGFR overexpression and activating mutations in the tyrosine kinase domain of the EGFR gene lead to tumor growth and progression. Consequently, EGFR has become a target for anti-cancer drug therapy. Erlotinib and gefitinib are examples of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that can prevent activation of the signaling pathways and improve response rates in selected NSCLC patients.

Activating EGFR mutations, which are associated with increased sensitivity to EGFR TKIs, predominate in never-smokers, females, and tumors with adenocarcinoma histology. However, these characteristics are not as effective as mutation testing for predicting which patients might benefit from targeted TKIs.2 The most common mutations associated with sensitivity to EGFR TKIs include exon 19 deletions and the L858R point mutation.3 These mutations are associated with response rates of >70% in patients treated with either erlotinib or gefitinib.2,4 Other EGFR mutations (eg, T790M and exon 20 insertion) have been associated with much lower response or acquired resistance to TKIs.3 


The KRAS protein stimulates signaling pathways downstream from EGFR. KRAS mutations lead to a constitutively activated KRAS protein that continually stimulates these downstream pathways. Although EGFR TKIs can block EGFR activation, they cannot block the activity of the mutated KRAS protein. Thus, patients with KRAS mutations tend to be resistant to erlotinib and gefitinib.2,5-7 KRAS mutations are more likely found in adenocarcinomas, in patients who are smokers, and in Caucasian patients rather than Asians. KRAS mutations are prognostic for poor survival, independent of therapy.1,6,7


Rearrangements of the gene encoding anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) have been linked to abnormal cell proliferation and NSCLC (most commonly adenocarcinomas). The most common ALK rearrangement in NSCLC is EML4-ALK, which arises from fusion between the 5′ end of the EML4 gene and the 3′ end of the ALK gene on chromosome 2p23. Patients with ALK rearrangements are younger than most patients with NSCLC.8 EML4-ALK rearrangements are also more common in adenocarcinomas of never or light smokers whose tumors lack EGFR and KRAS mutations.

Patients with ALK rearrangements do not benefit from EGFR-specific TKI therapy8 but may be considered for therapy targeting the constitutively activated receptor tyrosine kinase that results from EML4-ALK and other ALK fusions. Crizotinib (Xalkori®, Pfizer) is the first FDA-approved ALK TKI. It is indicated for treatment of locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC in patients whose tumors are positive for ALK as determined using an FDA-approved test.9 Patients with ALK-positive advanced NSCLC have exhibited objective response rates of 50% to 61% in single-arm clinical studies.9,10

Mutation Profiling

Although some clinical and histologic features correlate with particular genetic changes, only molecular testing can definitively identify the mutations associated with targeted therapy response or resistance. Additionally, EGFR, KRAS, and ALK mutations are almost always mutually exclusive (ie, mutations of only 1 of the 3 genes occur within any individual tumor). Therefore, Quest Diagnostics offers a Lung Cancer Mutation Panel that tests for mutations in all 3 oncogenes. Individual tests for mutation detection are also available for each gene.

The Table summarizes information relevant to patient management.

Table. Oncogene Mutations Predict Likelihood of Resistance or Response to Targeted Therapies in Patients with NSCLC
Oncogene Mutation Prevalence Mutation-predicted Therapeutic Response Predicted Overall Response Rates to Targeted Therapies
EGFR Asians: 40%
Caucasians: 10–15%

Sensitive to EGFR TKIs 

(most mutations)a

Erlotinib: ~82%–83%4
Gefitinib: ~71%–73%4
KRAS Asians: 10%
Caucasians: 30%
Resistant to EGFR TKIs 0%–5%2,5,7
ALK 2–7%

Sensitive to ALK inhibitors

Crizotinib: 50%-61%9,10

Resistant to EGFR TKIs


TKI, tyrosine kinase inhibitor.


Common mutations (exon 19 deletions and L858R) are associated with response to EGFR TKIs; other mutations such as T790M and exon 20 insertion are associated with decreased response or secondary resistance to TKIs.4


Based on one study that included 10 patients positive for EML4-ALK.8

Individuals Suitable for Testing

  • Patients with NSCLC who are being considered for treatment with an EGFR inhibitor or ALK TKI


  • EGFR and KRAS: polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and dye-terminator sequencing

    –  Covering the kinase domain of the EGFR gene (exons 18–21)

    –  Covering codons 12 and 13 (exon 2) and codon 61 (exon 3) of the KRAS gene

    –  Analytical sensitivity: 10% to 20% tumor cells in the background of normal cells. Testing is performed on sample where tumor is enriched.

  • ALK: fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) testing with ALK break-apart probes to detect rearrangements11

Interpretive Information

Activating EGFR mutations, including exon 19 deletions and the L858R point mutation, predict response to erlotinib or gefitinib therapy. T790M and exon 20 insertion mutations predict resistance (Table). KRAS mutations predict non-response to EGFR TKI inhibitors, thus alternative therapies should be considered.1 Detection of ALK rearrangements in patients with advanced NSCLC suggests eligibility for treatment with the ALK inhibitor crizotinib10 but not with EGFR-directed inhibitors.

During therapy, acquisition of additional, secondary mutations can confer resistance to EGFR or ALK inhibitors. Such mutations include the T790M mutation in EGFR, mutations in KRAS, and ALK mutations that may not be detected in this assay (eg, somatic ALK kinase domain mutations and copy number gains of the fusion gene12).


  1. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology®. Non–small cell lung cancer. v4.2017. Available at http://www.nccn.org. Accessed February 9, 2017.

  2. Jackman DM, Miller VA, Cioffredi LA, et al. Impact of epidermal growth factor receptor and KRAS mutations on clinical outcomes in previously untreated non–small cell lung cancer patients: Results of an online tumor registry of clinical trials. Clin Cancer Res. 2009;15:5267-5273.

  3. Jänne PA, Johnson BE. Effect of epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase domain mutations on the outcome of patients with non–small cell lung cancer treated with epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Clin Cancer Res. 2006;12(14Suppl):4416s-4420s.

  4. West H, Lilenbaum R, Harpole D, et al. Molecular analysis-based treatment strategies for the management of non–small cell lung cancer. J Thorac Oncol. 2009;4:s1029-s1039.

  5. Pao W, Wang TY, Riely GJ, et al. KRAS mutations and primary resistance of lung adenocarcinomas to gefitinib or erlotinib. PLosMed. 2005;2:e17.

  6. Eberhard DA, Johnson BE, Amler LC, et al. Mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor and in KRAS are predictive and prognostic indicators in patients with non–small cell lung cancer treated with chemotherapy alone and in combination with erlotinib. J Clin Oncol. 2005;23:5900-5909.

  7. Massarelli E, Varella-Garcia M, Tang X, et al. KRAS mutation is an important predictor of resistance to therapy with epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors in non–small cell lung cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2007;13:2890-2896.

  8. Shaw AT, Yeap BY, Mino-Kenudson M, et al. Clinical features and outcome of patients with non–small cell lung cancer who harbor EML4-ALK. J Clin Oncol. 2009;27:4247-4253.

  9. XALKORI® (crizotinib) [package insert]. New York, NY: Pfizer; 2012.

  10. Kwak EL, Bang Y-J, Camidge DR, et al. Anaplastic lymphoma kinase inhibition in non–small cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med. 2010;363:1693-1703.

  11. Vysis ALK Break Apart FISH Probe Kit [package insert]. Des Plaines, IL: Abbott Molecular Inc; 2011.

  12. Doebele RC, Pilling AB, Aisner DL, et al. Mechanisms of resistance to crizotinib in patients with ALK gene rearranged non–small cell lung cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2012;18:1472-1482.

This test was developed and its analytical performance characteristics have been determined by Quest Diagnostics. It has not been cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This assay has been validated pursuant to the CLIA regulations and is used for clinical purposes.

Content reviewed 02/2017
top of page

* The tests listed by specialist are a select group of tests offered. For a complete list of Quest Diagnostics tests, please refer to our Directory of Services.