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      Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization and Immunohistochemistry as Diagnostic Methods for ALK Positive Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients

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          Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) positivity represents a novel molecular target in a subset of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers (NSCLC). We explore Fluorescence in situ Hybridization (FISH) and Immunohistochemistry (IHC) as diagnostic methods for ALK positive patients and to describe its prevalence and outcomes in a population of NSCLC patients.


          NSCLC patients previously screened for Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) at our institution were selected. ALK positive patients were identified by FISH and the value of IHC (D5F3) was explored.


          ninety-nine patients were identified. Median age was 61.5 years (range 35–83), all were caucasians, eighty percent were adenocarcinomas, fifty-one percent were male and thirty-eight percent were current smokers. Seven (7.1%) patients were ALK positive by FISH, thirteen (13.1%) were EGFR mutant, and 65 (65.6%) were negative/Wild Type (WT) for both ALK and EGFR. ALK positivity and EGFR mutations were mutually exclusive. ALK positive patients tend to be younger than EGFR mutated or wt patients. ALK positive patients were predominantly never smokers (71.4%) and adenocarcinoma (71.4%). ALK positive and EGFR mutant patients have a better outcome than negative/WT. All patients with ALK FISH negative tumours were negative for ALK IHC. Out of 6 patients positive for ALK FISH with more tissue available, 5 were positive for ALK IHC and 1 negative.


          ALK positive patients represent 7.1% of a population of selected NSCLC. ALK positive patients have different clinical features and a better outcome than EGFR WT and ALK negative patients. IHC is a promising method for detecting ALK positive NSCLC patients.

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          Most cited references 14

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          Clinical features and outcome of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who harbor EML4-ALK.

          The EML4-ALK fusion oncogene represents a novel molecular target in a small subset of non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLC). To aid in identification and treatment of these patients, we examined the clinical characteristics and treatment outcomes of patients who had NSCLC with and without EML4-ALK. Patients with NSCLC were selected for genetic screening on the basis of two or more of the following characteristics: female sex, Asian ethnicity, never/light smoking history, and adenocarcinoma histology. EML4-ALK was identified by using fluorescent in situ hybridization for ALK rearrangements and was confirmed by immunohistochemistry for ALK expression. EGFR and KRAS mutations were determined by DNA sequencing. Of 141 tumors screened, 19 (13%) were EML4-ALK mutant, 31 (22%) were EGFR mutant, and 91 (65%) were wild type (WT/WT) for both ALK and EGFR. Compared with the EGFR mutant and WT/WT cohorts, patients with EML4-ALK mutant tumors were significantly younger (P < .001 and P = .005) and were more likely to be men (P = .036 and P = .039). Patients with EML4-ALK-positive tumors, like patients who harbored EGFR mutations, also were more likely to be never/light smokers compared with patients in the WT/WT cohort (P < .001). Eighteen of the 19 EML4-ALK tumors were adenocarcinomas, predominantly the signet ring cell subtype. Among patients with metastatic disease, EML4-ALK positivity was associated with resistance to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Patients in the EML4-ALK cohort and the WT/WT cohort showed similar response rates to platinum-based combination chemotherapy and no difference in overall survival. EML4-ALK defines a molecular subset of NSCLC with distinct clinical characteristics. Patients who harbor this mutation do not benefit from EGFR TKIs and should be directed to trials of ALK-targeted agents.
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            EML4-ALK fusion gene and efficacy of an ALK kinase inhibitor in lung cancer.

            The EML4-ALK fusion gene has been detected in approximately 7% of Japanese non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). We determined the frequency of EML4-ALK in Caucasian NSCLC and in NSCLC cell lines. We also determined whether TAE684, a specific ALK kinase inhibitor, would inhibit the growth of EML4-ALK-containing cell lines in vitro and in vivo. We screened 305 primary NSCLC [both U.S. (n = 138) and Korean (n = 167) patients] and 83 NSCLC cell lines using reverse transcription-PCR and by exon array analyses. We evaluated the efficacy of TAE684 against NSCLC cell lines in vitro and in vivo. We detected four different variants, including two novel variants, of EML4-ALK using reverse transcription-PCR in 8 of 305 tumors (3%) and 3 of 83 (3.6%) NSCLC cell lines. All EML4-ALK-containing tumors and cell lines were adenocarcinomas. EML4-ALK was detected more frequently in NSCLC patients who were never or light (<10 pack-years) cigarette smokers compared with current/former smokers (6% versus 1%; P = 0.049). TAE684 inhibited the growth of one of three (H3122) EML4-ALK-containing cell lines in vitro and in vivo, inhibited Akt phosphorylation, and caused apoptosis. In another EML4-ALK cell line, DFCI032, TAE684 was ineffective due to coactivation of epidermal growth factor receptor and ERBB2. The combination of TAE684 and CL-387,785 (epidermal growth factor receptor/ERBB2 kinase inhibitor) inhibited growth and Akt phosphorylation and led to apoptosis in the DFCI032 cell line. EML4-ALK is found in the minority of NSCLC. ALK kinase inhibitors alone or in combination may nevertheless be clinically effective treatments for NSCLC patients whose tumors contain EML4-ALK.
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              A novel, highly sensitive antibody allows for the routine detection of ALK-rearranged lung adenocarcinomas by standard immunohistochemistry.

              Approximately 5% of lung adenocarcinomas harbor an EML4-ALK gene fusion and define a unique tumor group that may be responsive to targeted therapy. However ALK-rearranged lung adenocarcinomas are difficult to detect by either standard fluorescence in situ hybridization or immunohistochemistry (IHC) assays. In the present study, we used novel antibodies to compare ALK protein expression in genetically defined lung cancers and anaplastic large cell lymphomas. We analyzed 174 tumors with one standard and two novel monoclonal antibodies recognizing the ALK protein. Immunostained tissue sections were assessed for the level of tumor-specific ALK expression by objective quantitative image analysis and independently by three pathologists. ALK protein is invariably and exclusively expressed in ALK-rearranged lung adenocarcinomas but at much lower levels than in the prototypic ALK-rearranged tumor, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and as a result, is often not detected by conventional IHC. We further validate a novel IHC that shows excellent sensitivity and specificity (100% and 99%, respectively) for the detection of ALK-rearranged lung adenocarcinomas in biopsy specimens, with excellent interobserver agreement between pathologists (kappa statistic, 0.94). Low levels of ALK protein expression is a characteristic feature of ALK-rearranged lung adenocarcinomas. However, a novel, highly sensitive IHC assay reliably detects lung adenocarcinomas with ALK rearrangements and obviates the need for fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis for the majority of cases, and therefore could be routinely applicable in clinical practice to detect lung cancers that may be responsive to ALK inhibitors.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                24 January 2013
                : 8
                : 1
                [1 ]Medical Oncology Department, Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
                [2 ]Pathology Department, Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
                [3 ]Thoracic Oncology Department, Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
                Johns Hopkins University, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: PM JHL SRC EF. Performed the experiments: JHL JC MAM NT. Analyzed the data: PM JHL EF. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: SC AMM NMG ANM VRF MC. Wrote the paper: PM EF.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 6
                The authors have no funding or support to report.
                Research Article
                Clinical Immunology
                Immunologic Techniques
                Immunohistochemical Analysis
                Diagnostic Medicine
                Anatomical Pathology
                Cancers and Neoplasms
                Lung and Intrathoracic Tumors
                Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
                Cancer Detection and Diagnosis



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