Brain metastases affect 25% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We hypothesized that the expression of genes in primary NSCLC tumors could predict brain metastasis and be used for identification of high-risk patients, who may benefit from prophylactic therapy.
The expression of 12 genes was measured by real-time quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR in 142 frozen NSCLC tissue samples. Univariate and multivariate Cox regression analysis was used to analyze the correlation between gene expression and the occurrence of brain metastasis. Immunohistochemistry on independent samples was used to verify the findings.
A score based on the expression levels of three genes, CDH2 (N-cadherin), KIFC1, and FALZ, was highly predictive of brain metastasis in early and advanced lung cancer. The probability of remaining brain metastasis-free at 2 years after diagnosis was 90.0+/-9.5% for patients with stage I/stage II tumors and low score compared with 62.7+/-12% for patients with high score (P<0.01). In patients with more advanced lung cancer, the brain metastasis-free survival at 24 months was 89% for patients with low score compared with only 37% in patients with high score (P<0.02). These results were confirmed by immunohistochemical detection of N-cadherin in independent cohort of primary NSCLC.
The expression levels of three genes in primary NSCLC tumors may be used to identify patients at high risk for brain metastasis who may benefit from prophylactic therapy to the central nervous system.