Background Cetuximab, a monoclonal antibody targeting Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), is currently used in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), but predictive factors for therapeutic response are lacking. Mutational status of KRAS and EGFR, and EGFR copy number are potential determinants of cetuximab activity. Methods We analyzed tumor tissues from 32 EGFR-positive mCRC patients receiving cetuximab/irinotecan combination and evaluable for treatment response. EGFR copy number was quantified by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). KRAS exon 1 and EGFR exons coding for extracellular regions were sequenced. Results Nine patients experienced an objective response (partial response) and 23 were considered as nonresponders (12 with stable disease and 11 with progressive disease). There was no EGFR amplification found, but high polysomy was noted in 2 patients, both of which were cetuximab responders. No EGFR mutations were found but a variant of exon 13 (R521K) was observed in 12 patients, 11 of which achieved objective response or stable disease. Progression-free and overall survivals were significantly better in patients with this EGFR exon 13 variant. KRAS mutations were found in 14 cases. While there was a trend for an increased KRAS mutation frequency in nonresponder patients (12 mutations out of 23, 52%) as compared to responder patients (2 out of 9, 22%), authentic tumor response or long-term disease stabilization was found in KRAS mutated patients. Conclusion This preliminary study suggests that: an increase in EGFR copy number may be associated with cetuximab response but is a rare event in CRC, KRAS mutations are associated with low response rate but do not preclude any cetuximab-based combination efficacy and EGFR exon 13 variant (R521K) may predict for cetuximab benefit.