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Complete response in gallbladder cancer to erlotinib plus gemcitabine does not require mutation of the epidermal growth factor receptor gene: a case report

Kabir Mody1, Edward Strauss2, Robert Lincer3 and Richard C Frank1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Norwalk Hospital, 34 Maple Street, Norwalk, CT 06856 USA

2 Department of Radiology, Norwalk Hospital, 34 Maple Street, Norwalk, CT 06856 USA

3 Department of Surgery, Norwalk Hospital, 34 Maple Street, Norwalk, CT 06856 USA

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:570  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-570

Published: 20 October 2010



Gallbladder cancer typically follows an aggressive course, with chemotherapy the standard of care for advanced disease; complete remissions are rarely encountered. The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a promising therapeutic target but the activity of single agent oral EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors is low. There have been no previous reports of chemotherapy plus an EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) to treat gallbladder cancer or correlations of response with the mutation status of the tyrosine kinase domain of the EGFR gene.

Case presentation

A 67 year old man with metastatic gallbladder cancer involving the liver and abdominal lymph nodes was treated with gemcitabine (1000 mg/m2) on day 1 and 8 every 21 days as well as daily erlotinib (100 mg). After four cycles of therapy, the CA 19-9 normalized and a PET/CT showed a complete remission; this response was maintained by the end of 12 cycles of therapy. Gemcitabine was then discontinued and single agent erlotinib was continued as maintenance therapy. The disease remains in good control 18 months after initiation of therapy, including 6 months on maintenance erlotinib. The only grade 3 toxicity was a typical EGFR-related skin rash. Because of the remarkable response to erlotinib plus gemcitabine, we performed tumor genotyping of the EGFR gene for response predicting mutations in exons 18, 19 and 21. This disclosed the wild-type genotype with no mutations found.


This case report demonstrates a patient with stage IV gallbladder cancer who experienced a rarely encountered complete, prolonged response after treatment with an oral EGFR-TKI plus chemotherapy. This response occurred in the absence of an EGFR gene mutation. These observations should inform the design of clinical trials using EGFR-TKIs to treat gallbladder and other biliary tract cancers; such trials should not select patients based on EGFR mutation status.