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Open Access Commentary

A new analysis approach of epidermal growth factor receptor pathway activation patterns provides insights into cetuximab resistance mechanisms in head and neck cancer

Silvia von der Heyde and Tim Beissbarth*

Author Affiliations

Department of Medical Statistics, University Medical Center Göttingen, Humboldtallee 32, Göttingen, 37073, Germany

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BMC Medicine 2012, 10:43  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-43

Published: 1 May 2012


The pathways downstream of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have often been implicated to play crucial roles in the development and progression of various cancer types. Different authors have proposed models in cell lines in which they study the modes of pathway activities after perturbation experiments. It is prudent to believe that a better understanding of these pathway activation patterns might lead to novel treatment concepts for cancer patients or at least allow a better stratification of patient collectives into different risk groups or into groups that might respond to different treatments. Traditionally, such analyses focused on the individual players of the pathways. More recently in the field of systems biology, a plethora of approaches that take a more holistic view on the signaling pathways and their downstream transcriptional targets has been developed. Fertig et al. have recently developed a new method to identify patterns and biological process activity from transcriptomics data, and they demonstrate the utility of this methodology to analyze gene expression activity downstream of the EGFR in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma to study cetuximab resistance. Please see related article: webcite

HNSCC; EGFR; cetuximab; drug resistance; matrix factorization; GSEA; pathway signature