Also Known As
K-Ras
This article was last reviewed on
This article waslast modified on November 15, 2019.
At a Glance
Why Get Tested?

To detect a KRAS gene mutation in tumor tissue in order to guide cancer therapy and to evaluate prognosis

When To Get Tested?

When you have colon cancer that has spread (metastatic) or non-small cell lung cancer

Sample Required?

A sample of tumor tissue obtained through a biopsy procedure or sometimes collected during surgery

Test Preparation Needed?

None

What is being tested?

This test detects specific mutations in the KRAS gene in the DNA of cancer cells and tissue. The presence of these mutations may indicate that certain drugs will not be effective in treating the cancer.

KRAS is a short name for the gene Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog. It is one of a group of genes involved in a pathway called the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway. This complex signaling pathway involves numerous components that relay signals from outside of the cell to within the cell to help regulate cell growth, division, survival and death.

In many normal cells, binding of epidermal growth factor (EGF) to its receptor (EGFR) on the surface of the cell is an important signal for cell growth and division. Other signals in the pathway involve a class of proteins called tyrosine kinase (TK) enzymes and a protein produced by the KRAS gene. Normally, the components of the pathway interact in the regulation of cell growth and division and do not individually stimulate cell proliferation.

However, in some cancers, EGFR becomes active even in the absence of EGF, leading to uncontrolled cell growth and division. Drugs that inhibit EGFR or tyrosine kinase enzymes are often helpful for treating such cancers. Some of these cancers, though, have a mutation in the KRAS gene that produces an abnormal K-Ras protein. The abnormal protein is always active and can stimulate cell growth even in the absence of signals from EGFR or other tyrosine kindase proteins. In such cancers, drugs that inhibit EGFR or tyrosine kinases will not be effective.

KRAS is mutated in 15% to 20% of human cancers, mostly in pancreatic cancer, colon cancer and lung cancers as well as leukemias. Approximately 30% to 40% of colon cancers and 15% to 30% of lung cancers have KRAS mutations. Currently, drugs that target EGFR are used to treat colon cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. KRAS mutation testing is used to determine whether these drugs will be effective in treating these cancers.

There are several different methods of testing for KRAS mutations, but all of them involve evaluating the KRAS gene in tumor tissue.

Accordion Title
Common Questions
  • How is the test used?

    This test detects the presence of the most common KRAS gene mutations in the DNA of cells in tumor tissue in order to help guide cancer treatment. KRAS mutation analysis is ordered primarily to determine if your metastatic colon cancer or non-small cell lung cancer is likely to respond to standard therapy, an anti-EGFR drug therapy. Tumors with the KRAS mutation do not respond to anti-EGFR therapy.

    If your tumor is negative for the most common KRAS mutation, tests for other less common mutations not detected by the current test may be used to help predict therapeutic responses.

  • When is it ordered?

    A KRAS mutation test is usually ordered when you have been diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer or non-small cell lung cancer. It may be performed at any time prior to the start of treatment.

  • What does the test result mean?

    If tissue from your cancer contains a KRAS mutation, then you will not benefit from EGFR targeted therapies. The presence of a KRAS mutation also indicates a likely poorer prognosis, although the presence of a specific mutation cannot predict how severe or aggressive the cancer will be.

    A negative result on the KRAS test indicates that your cancer may respond to anti-EGFR therapy, but the lack of a KRAS mutation as determined by the KRAS test does not ensure this. A negative test could occur when the tumor tissue sample is insufficient or when some of the cancer cells in the tumor contain the mutation and others do not. Additionally, there may be KRAS mutations that are not detected by some tests because of their particular location in the DNA. Other factors may also lead to cancer that is resistant to anti-EGFR drugs.

  • Is there anything else I should know?

    Guidelines from both the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network have recommended KRAS mutation testing prior to anti-EGFR therapy.

    Current anti-EGFR drug therapies include:

    • For colon cancer, anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies such as cetuximab and panitumumab that block binding of receptors
    • For non-small cell lung cancer, anti-EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as gefitinib and erlotinib that prevent activation of signaling pathways

     

  • Should everyone with cancer have KRAS mutation testing?

    Testing is not generally indicated unless a person has colon cancer or non-small cell lung cancer.

  • Would this testing and drug therapy be useful for other types of cancer?

    It is possible, since KRAS mutations are found in other cancers. This is a focus for medical researchers, but it may be some time before the usefulness of the testing and therapy in other cancers is determined. For example, whether KRAS mutations are associated with less efficient EGFR-targeted therapy in pancreatic cancer patients remains controversial and requires further investigation.

  • Is it necessary to repeat a KRAS mutation test?

    This is not usually necessary but might occur if your health practitioner thought that the first sample tested might have been insufficient. In some cases, a health care provider may order a KRAS test that detects a mutation in another part of the DNA or another more rare KRAS mutation. Sometimes metastatic tumors may be not be accessible or have limited tissue for testing. In these cases, a sample (if available) from your primary cancer may be obtained for testing. Frequently, if the primary tumor has a KRAS mutation, so will the metastatic tumor.

  • Can this test be performed by my local laboratory?

    It may be available in some larger laboratories, but must often it will be sent to a reference laboratory. Depending on the laboratory, it may take a few days or weeks for results to be available.

  • Can this test be performed on my blood instead?

    Some medical laboratories can perform KRAS mutation testing on tumor tissue as well as bone marrow and blood. However, the research that evaluated the role of KRAS mutations in treatment response was based solely on tumor testing. Therefore, the preferred sample for KRAS testing is tumor tissue.

You may be able to find your test results on your laboratory's website or patient portal. However, you are currently at Lab Tests Online. You may have been directed here by your lab's website in order to provide you with background information about the test(s) you had performed. You will need to return to your lab's website or portal, or contact your healthcare practitioner in order to obtain your test results.

Lab Tests Online is an award-winning patient education website offering information on laboratory tests. The content on the site, which has been reviewed by laboratory scientists and other medical professionals, provides general explanations of what results might mean for each test listed on the site, such as what a high or low value might suggest to your healthcare practitioner about your health or medical condition.

The reference ranges for your tests can be found on your laboratory report. They are typically found to the right of your results.

If you do not have your lab report, consult your healthcare provider or the laboratory that performed the test(s) to obtain the reference range.

Laboratory test results are not meaningful by themselves. Their meaning comes from comparison to reference ranges. Reference ranges are the values expected for a healthy person. They are sometimes called "normal" values. By comparing your test results with reference values, you and your healthcare provider can see if any of your test results fall outside the range of expected values. Values that are outside expected ranges can provide clues to help identify possible conditions or diseases.

While accuracy of laboratory testing has significantly evolved over the past few decades, some lab-to-lab variability can occur due to differences in testing equipment, chemical reagents, and techniques. This is a reason why so few reference ranges are provided on this site. It is important to know that you must use the range supplied by the laboratory that performed your test to evaluate whether your results are "within normal limits."

For more information, please read the article Reference Ranges and What They Mean.

View Sources

Sources Used in Current Review

Current review performed by Hui Li, PhD, DABCC, FACB, FCACB, Clinical Chemist, Dynacare and the Editorial Review Board.

Cicenas J et. al. (2017 April 28). KRAS, TP53, CDKN2A, SMAD4, BRCA1, and BRCA2 Mutations in Pancreatic Cancer. Available online at http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6694/9/5/42. Accessed January 2019.

Chiramel J et. al. (2017 April 26). Targeting the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor in Addition to Chemotherapy in Patients with Advanced Pancreatic Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Available online at http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/18/5/909. Accessed January 2019.

Shen et al. (2017 March 07). Diagnostic and prognostic value of blood samples for KRAS mutation identification in lung cancer: a meta-analysis. Available online at http://www.impactjournals.com/oncotarget/index.php?journal=oncotarget&page=article&op=view&path[]=15972&pubmed-linkout=1. Accessed January 2019.

Sobani et. al. (2016 Oct 10). Oncogenic fingerprint of epidermal growth factor receptor pathway and emerging epidermal growth factor receptor blockade resistance in colorectal cancer. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5056326/pdf/WJCO-7-340.pdf. Accessed January 2019.

Wang JP et. al. (2015 Jul 20). Erlotinib is effective in pancreatic cancer with epidermal growth factor receptor mutations: a randomized, open-label, prospective trial. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4627242/pdf/oncotarget-06-18162.pdf. Accessed January 2019.

Quest Diagnostics [On-line information]. KRAS Mutation Analysis. Available online at https://www.questdiagnostics.com/testcenter/TestDetail.action?ntc=16510. Accessed January 2019.

Sources Used in Previous Reviews

Lefferts, J. and Tsongalis, G. (2010 March 5). KRAS Mutation Detection: A New Look at an Old Gene. Clinical Chemistry v 56:5, 698–701 [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.clinchem.org/content/56/5/698.full. Accessed May 2012.

Franklin, W. et. al. (2012 January). KRAS Mutation Comparison of Testing Methods and Tissue Sampling Techniques in Colon Cancer. J Mol Diagn. v 12(1): 43–50. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797717/. Accessed May 2012.

Anderson, S. (2011 August 15). Laboratory Methods for KRAS Mutation Analysis. Medscape Today News from Expert Rev Mol Diagn. v 11(6):635-642 [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/746638. Accessed May 2012.

Markman, M. (Updated 2012 March 28). Colorectal Cancer and KRAS/BRAF. Medscape Reference [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1690010-overview. Accessed May 2012.

Pool, M. (2009 March 2). The Role of KRAS Mutation Testing in the Management of Colorectal Cancer. CAP [On-line information]. Available online at www.cap.org. Accessed May 2012.

(2009 July). KRAS Mutation Testing for Anti-Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Therapy in Colorectal and Lung Cancer. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories Communique [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/articles/communique/2009/07.html. Accessed May 2012.

(© 1995-2012). Test ID: KRAS KRAS Gene, 7 Mutation Panel, Tumor. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/89378. Accessed May 2012.

Jarboe, E. et. al. (Updated 2011 February). Colorectal Cancer. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/ColorectalCancer.html. Accessed May 2012.

(Reviewed 2012 May). KRAS. Genetics Home Reference [On-line information]. Available online at http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/KRAS. Accessed May 2012.

(Reviewed 2011 December 7). Tumor Markers. National Cancer Institute [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Detection/tumor-markers. Accessed May 2012.

Liu, X. et. al. (2011 February 13). KRAS Gene Mutation in Colorectal Cancer is Correlated with Increased Proliferation and Spontaneous Apoptosis. Medscape Today News from Am J Clin Pathol. v 135:245-252. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/736647. Accessed May 2012.

(Revised 2012 February 17). Lung Cancer (Non-Small Cell), How is non-small cell lung cancer diagnosed? American Cancer Society [On-line information]. Available online. Accessed May 2012.

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Chowdhuri, S. et. al. (2012 May 8). EGFR and KRAS Mutation Analysis in Cytologic Samples of Lung Adenocarcinoma Enabled by Laser Capture Microdissection. Medscape Today News from Modern Pathology. v 25(4):548-555 [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/763033. Accessed May 2012.

(Reviewed Sept 7 2012) National Cancer Institute. Targeted Cancer Therapies. Available online at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/targeted. Accessed September 2012.

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