Gene Summary

Gene:ALK; anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase
Aliases: CD246, NBLST3
Summary:This gene encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase, which belongs to the insulin receptor superfamily. This protein comprises an extracellular domain, an hydrophobic stretch corresponding to a single pass transmembrane region, and an intracellular kinase domain. It plays an important role in the development of the brain and exerts its effects on specific neurons in the nervous system. This gene has been found to be rearranged, mutated, or amplified in a series of tumours including anaplastic large cell lymphomas, neuroblastoma, and non-small cell lung cancer. The chromosomal rearrangements are the most common genetic alterations in this gene, which result in creation of multiple fusion genes in tumourigenesis, including ALK (chromosome 2)/EML4 (chromosome 2), ALK/RANBP2 (chromosome 2), ALK/ATIC (chromosome 2), ALK/TFG (chromosome 3), ALK/NPM1 (chromosome 5), ALK/SQSTM1 (chromosome 5), ALK/KIF5B (chromosome 10), ALK/CLTC (chromosome 17), ALK/TPM4 (chromosome 19), and ALK/MSN (chromosome X).[provided by RefSeq, Jan 2011]
Databases:OMIM, VEGA, HGNC, Ensembl, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:ALK tyrosine kinase receptor
Source:NCBIAccessed: 28 February, 2015


What does this gene/protein do?
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Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1990-2015)
Graph generated 28 February 2015 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

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Tag cloud generated 28 February, 2015 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Latest Publications: ALK (cancer-related)

Bresler SC, Weiser DA, Huwe PJ, et al.
ALK mutations confer differential oncogenic activation and sensitivity to ALK inhibition therapy in neuroblastoma.
Cancer Cell. 2014; 26(5):682-94 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 10/11/2015 Related Publications
Genetic studies have established anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), a cell surface receptor tyrosine kinase, as a tractable molecular target in neuroblastoma. We describe comprehensive genomic, biochemical, and computational analyses of ALK mutations across 1,596 diagnostic neuroblastoma samples. ALK tyrosine kinase domain mutations occurred in 8% of samples--at three hot spots and 13 minor sites--and correlated significantly with poorer survival in high- and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma. Biochemical and computational studies distinguished oncogenic (constitutively activating) from nononcogenic mutations and allowed robust computational prediction of their effects. The mutated variants also showed differential in vitro crizotinib sensitivities. Our studies identify ALK genomic status as a clinically important therapeutic stratification tool in neuroblastoma and will allow tailoring of ALK-targeted therapy to specific mutations.

Maddalo D, Manchado E, Concepcion CP, et al.
In vivo engineering of oncogenic chromosomal rearrangements with the CRISPR/Cas9 system.
Nature. 2014; 516(7531):423-7 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 18/06/2015 Related Publications
Chromosomal rearrangements have a central role in the pathogenesis of human cancers and often result in the expression of therapeutically actionable gene fusions. A recently discovered example is a fusion between the genes echinoderm microtubule-associated protein like 4 (EML4) and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), generated by an inversion on the short arm of chromosome 2: inv(2)(p21p23). The EML4-ALK oncogene is detected in a subset of human non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) and is clinically relevant because it confers sensitivity to ALK inhibitors. Despite their importance, modelling such genetic events in mice has proven challenging and requires complex manipulation of the germ line. Here we describe an efficient method to induce specific chromosomal rearrangements in vivo using viral-mediated delivery of the CRISPR/Cas9 system to somatic cells of adult animals. We apply it to generate a mouse model of Eml4-Alk-driven lung cancer. The resulting tumours invariably harbour the Eml4-Alk inversion, express the Eml4-Alk fusion gene, display histopathological and molecular features typical of ALK(+) human NSCLCs, and respond to treatment with ALK inhibitors. The general strategy described here substantially expands our ability to model human cancers in mice and potentially in other organisms.

Singh RR, Patel KP, Routbort MJ, et al.
Clinical massively parallel next-generation sequencing analysis of 409 cancer-related genes for mutations and copy number variations in solid tumours.
Br J Cancer. 2014; 111(10):2014-23 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 11/11/2015 Related Publications
BACKGROUND: In a clinical diagnostic laboratory, we evaluated the applicability of the Ion Proton sequencer for screening 409 cancer-related genes in solid tumours.
METHODS: DNA was extracted from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue biopsy specimens of 55 solid tumours (20 with matched normal tissue) and four cell lines and screened for mutations in 409 genes using the Ion Proton system. The mutation profiles of these samples were known based on prior testing using the Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine (46-gene hotspot panel), Sanger sequencing, or fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH). Concordance with retrospective findings and additional mutations were evaluated. Assay sensitivity and reproducibility were established. Gene copy number variations (CNVs) detected were confirmed by molecular inversion probe (MIP) array.
RESULTS: The average Ion Proton (409-gene panel) sequencing output per run was 8 gigabases with 128 million sequencing reads. Of the 15,992 amplicons in the 409-gene panel, 90% achieved a minimum average sequencing depth of 100X. In 59 samples, the Ion Proton detected 100 of 105 expected single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) and all expected deletions (n=8), insertions (n=5), and CNVs (n=7). Five SNVs were not detected due to failed amplification of targeted regions. In 20 tumours with paired normal tissue, Ion Proton detected 37 additional somatic mutations, several in genes of high prognostic or therapeutic significance, such as MET, ALK, TP53, APC, and PTEN. MIP array analysis confirmed all CNVs detected by Ion Proton.
CONCLUSIONS: The Ion Proton (409-gene panel) system was found to be well suited for use in a clinical molecular diagnostic laboratory. It can simultaneously screen 409 genes for a variety of sequence variants in multiple samples using a low input of FFPE DNA with high reproducibility and sensitivity.

VandenBussche CJ, Illei PB, Lin MT, et al.
Molecular alterations in non-small cell lung carcinomas of the young.
Hum Pathol. 2014; 45(12):2379-87 [PubMed] Related Publications
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Gene alterations are significant in lung tumorigenesis, with certain genes (Kristen rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS), epidermal growth factor receptor [EGFR], anaplastic lymphoma kinase [ALK], and B-Raf proto-oncogene, serine/threonine kinase (BRAF)) possessing alterations important in the prognosis and treatment of lung adenocarcinoma. Mutation frequencies are affected by different patient factors, such as smoking history, age, and race. Because most lung cancers occur in patients older than age of 50 years, few studies have examined molecular alterations present in these younger patients. The pathology database was searched for patients age of 50 years or younger with non-small cell lung carcinomas (NSCLCs) tested for EGFR, ALK, KRAS, and/or BRAF alterations. A total of 53 cases were identified. The mean patient age was 44.4 years old, and there were 19 men and 34 women. Of the tumors, 11.6% had ALK rearrangements, 25.5% had KRAS mutations, and 20.0% had EGFR mutations. No BRAF mutations were identified in the 28 cases tested. All but 1 (92% [12/13]) tumor with KRAS mutation were from women patients. A smoking history of greater than 5 pack-years was associated with KRAS mutations and negatively associated with EGFR mutations and ALK translocation. The frequencies of EGFR mutation and ALK translocation in the study cohort are greater than the reported frequencies among NSCLC from adults of all ages in the United States but less than the reported frequencies among NSCLC from East Asian young adults. The frequency of KRAS mutation is significantly greater than what was previously found in young Japanese patients.

Alderman M, Kunju LP
Inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor of the bladder.
Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2014; 138(10):1272-7 [PubMed] Related Publications
We illustrate a case of an inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor (IMT) involving the bladder in a woman with dysuria and review the literature and differential diagnosis. Inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor, also referred to as pseudosarcomatous myofibroblastic proliferation, is a rare lesion that can arise in the genitourinary system and is characterized by a fascicular arrangement of myofibroblasts with admixed inflammatory cells and slitlike vessels. Urinary bladder IMT can be a diagnostic pitfall because its histologic features (brisk mitoses, invasion into muscularis propria, and prominent nucleoli) can mimic malignancy. The differential diagnosis of urinary bladder IMT includes sarcomatoid carcinoma and leiomyosarcoma. Diagnostic features such as bland nuclear chromatin, ganglion-like cells, pale eosinophilic cytoplasm with long processes, overexpression of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (immunohistochemistry or gene rearrangement studies), and the absence of atypical mitoses help distinguish IMT from its malignant mimics. Current controversies regarding postoperative spindle cell nodule and IMT are discussed.

Shaw AT, Ou SH, Bang YJ, et al.
Crizotinib in ROS1-rearranged non-small-cell lung cancer.
N Engl J Med. 2014; 371(21):1963-71 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 20/05/2015 Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Chromosomal rearrangements of the gene encoding ROS1 proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase (ROS1) define a distinct molecular subgroup of non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) that may be susceptible to therapeutic ROS1 kinase inhibition. Crizotinib is a small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), ROS1, and another proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase, MET.
METHODS: We enrolled 50 patients with advanced NSCLC who tested positive for ROS1 rearrangement in an expansion cohort of the phase 1 study of crizotinib. Patients were treated with crizotinib at the standard oral dose of 250 mg twice daily and assessed for safety, pharmacokinetics, and response to therapy. ROS1 fusion partners were identified with the use of next-generation sequencing or reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction assays.
RESULTS: The objective response rate was 72% (95% confidence interval [CI], 58 to 84), with 3 complete responses and 33 partial responses. The median duration of response was 17.6 months (95% CI, 14.5 to not reached). Median progression-free survival was 19.2 months (95% CI, 14.4 to not reached), with 25 patients (50%) still in follow-up for progression. Among 30 tumors that were tested, we identified 7 ROS1 fusion partners: 5 known and 2 novel partner genes. No correlation was observed between the type of ROS1 rearrangement and the clinical response to crizotinib. The safety profile of crizotinib was similar to that seen in patients with ALK-rearranged NSCLC.
CONCLUSIONS: In this study, crizotinib showed marked antitumor activity in patients with advanced ROS1-rearranged NSCLC. ROS1 rearrangement defines a second molecular subgroup of NSCLC for which crizotinib is highly active. (Funded by Pfizer and others; number, NCT00585195.).

Martinengo C, Poggio T, Menotti M, et al.
ALK-dependent control of hypoxia-inducible factors mediates tumor growth and metastasis.
Cancer Res. 2014; 74(21):6094-106 [PubMed] Related Publications
Rearrangements involving the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene are defining events in several tumors, including anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL) and non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). In such cancers, the oncogenic activity of ALK stimulates signaling pathways that induce cell transformation and promote tumor growth. In search for common pathways activated by oncogenic ALK across different tumors types, we found that hypoxia pathways were significantly enriched in ALK-rearranged ALCL and NSCLC, as compared with other types of T-cell lymphoma or EGFR- and K-RAS-mutated NSCLC, respectively. Consistently, in both ALCL and NSCLC, we found that under hypoxic conditions, ALK directly regulated the abundance of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF), which are key players of the hypoxia response in normal tissues and cancers. In ALCL, the upregulation of HIF1α and HIF2α in hypoxic conditions required ALK activity and its downstream signaling proteins STAT3 and C/EBPβ. In vivo, ALK regulated VEGFA production and tumor angiogenesis in ALCL and NSCLC, and the treatment with the anti-VEGFA antibody bevacizumab strongly impaired ALCL growth in mouse xenografts. Finally, HIF2α, but not HIF1α, was required for ALCL growth in vivo whereas the growth and metastasis potential of ALK-rearranged NSCLC required both HIF1α and HIF2α. In conclusion, we uncovered an ALK-specific regulation of the hypoxia response across different ALK(+) tumor types and propose HIFs as a powerful specific therapeutic target in ALK-rearranged ALCL and NSCLC.

Lovly CM, McDonald NT, Chen H, et al.
Rationale for co-targeting IGF-1R and ALK in ALK fusion-positive lung cancer.
Nat Med. 2014; 20(9):1027-34 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/03/2015 Related Publications
Crizotinib, a selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), shows marked activity in patients whose lung cancers harbor fusions in the gene encoding anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase (ALK), but its efficacy is limited by variable primary responses and acquired resistance. In work arising from the clinical observation of a patient with ALK fusion-positive lung cancer who had an exceptional response to an insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R)-specific antibody, we define a therapeutic synergism between ALK and IGF-1R inhibitors. Similar to IGF-1R, ALK fusion proteins bind to the adaptor insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1), and IRS-1 knockdown enhances the antitumor effects of ALK inhibitors. In models of ALK TKI resistance, the IGF-1R pathway is activated, and combined ALK and IGF-1R inhibition improves therapeutic efficacy. Consistent with this finding, the levels of IGF-1R and IRS-1 are increased in biopsy samples from patients progressing on crizotinib monotherapy. Collectively these data support a role for the IGF-1R-IRS-1 pathway in both ALK TKI-sensitive and ALK TKI-resistant states and provide a biological rationale for further clinical development of dual ALK and IGF-1R inhibitors.

Isozaki H, Yasugi M, Takigawa N, et al.
A new human lung adenocarcinoma cell line harboring the EML4-ALK fusion gene.
Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2014; 44(10):963-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVE: The echinoderm microtubule associated protein-like 4 (EML4)-anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) fusion gene was identified in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. To the best of our knowledge, there are only three cell lines harboring the EML4-ALK fusion gene, which have contributed to the development of therapeutic strategies. Therefore, we tried to establish a new lung cancer cell line harboring EML4-ALK.
METHODS: A 61-year-old Japanese female presented with chest discomfort. She was diagnosed with left lung adenocarcinoma with T4N3M1 Stage IV. Although she was treated with chemotherapy, her disease progressed with massive pleural effusion. Because the EML4-ALK rearrangement was found in a biopsied specimen using fluorescence in situ hybridization, she was treated with crizotinib. She did well for 3 months.
RESULTS: Tumor cells were obtained from the malignant pleural effusion before treatment with crizotinib. Cells continued to proliferate substantially for several weeks. The cell line was designated ABC-11. The EML4-ALK fusion protein and genes were identified in ABC-11 cells using fluorescence in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, respectively. ABC-11 cells were sensitive to crizotinib and next-generation ALK inhibitors (ceritinib and AP26113), as determined by a 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay. Phosphorylated ALK protein and its downstream signaling were suppressed by treatment with crizotinib in western blotting. Furthermore, we could transplant ABC-11 cells subcutaneously into BALB/c nu/nu mice.
CONCLUSIONS: We successfully established a new lung adenocarcinoma cell line harboring the EML4-ALK fusion gene. This cell line could contribute to future research of EML4-ALK-positive lung cancer both in vivo and in vitro.

Teoh JY, Chan NH, Cheung HY, et al.
Inflammatory myofibroblastic tumors of the urinary bladder: a systematic review.
Urology. 2014; 84(3):503-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
We systemically reviewed the literature on inflammatory myofibroblastic tumors (IMTs) of the urinary bladder and compared between anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive and ALK-negative IMTs. An extensive search of the literature was performed in Medline and Web of Science using the following terms: "inflammatory myofibrolastic tumor," "inflammatory pseudotumor," and "bladder." A manual search was also performed using the web-based search engine Google Scholar. Reference lists of the retrieved articles were reviewed for other relevant studies. Patients' and disease characteristics of each individual case were reviewed. Further analyses were performed to compare between ALK-positive and ALK-negative IMTs. Forty-one studies were identified, and 182 patients were included for review and subsequent analyses. Of the IMTs, 65% were ALK-positive. Local tumor recurrence rate was 4%, and no cases of distant metastases have been reported. Compared with ALK-negative IMTs, ALK-positive IMTs had a female predilection with a sex ratio (male:female) of 1:1.67 (P = .048). ALK-positive IMTs also appeared to occur in younger patients (P = .072). No significant differences were noted in terms of their clinical presentations and histologic features. On immunohistochemical staining, ALK-positive IMTs had more positive results for desmin (P = .042) and p53 (P = .05), and more negative results for clusterin (P = .003). In summary, ALK-positive IMTs of the urinary bladder had a female predilection, appeared to occur more frequently in younger patients, and had different immunohistochemical staining patterns when compared with ALK-negative IMTs. Regardless of its ALK status, IMT of the urinary bladder has a good prognosis after surgical resection.

Gadgeel SM, Gandhi L, Riely GJ, et al.
Safety and activity of alectinib against systemic disease and brain metastases in patients with crizotinib-resistant ALK-rearranged non-small-cell lung cancer (AF-002JG): results from the dose-finding portion of a phase 1/2 study.
Lancet Oncol. 2014; 15(10):1119-28 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and ALK rearrangements generally have a progression-free survival of 8-11 months while on treatment with the ALK inhibitor crizotinib. However, resistance inevitably develops, with the brain a common site of progression. More potent ALK inhibitors with consistently demonstrable CNS activity and good tolerability are needed urgently. Alectinib is a novel, highly selective, and potent ALK inhibitor that has shown clinical activity in patients with crizotinib-naive ALK-rearranged NSCLC. We did a phase 1/2 study of alectinib to establish the recommended phase 2 dose of the drug and examine its activity in patients resistant or intolerant to crizotinib.
METHODS: We enrolled patients with ALK-rearranged NSCLC who progressed on or were intolerant to crizotinib. We administered various oral doses of alectinib (300-900 mg twice a day) during the dose-escalation portion of the study (phase 1), to ascertain the recommended dose for phase 2. We used Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors criteria (version 1.1) to investigate the activity of alectinib in all patients with a baseline scan and at least one post-treatment scan (CT or MRI), with central radiological review of individuals with brain metastases. We assessed safety in all patients who received at least one dose of alectinib. Here, we present data for the phase 1 portion of the study, the primary objective of which was to establish the recommended phase 2 dose; phase 2 is ongoing. This trial is registered at, number NCT01588028.
FINDINGS: 47 patients were enrolled. Alectinib was well tolerated, with the most common adverse events being fatigue (14 [30%]; all grade 1-2), myalgia (eight [17%]; all grade 1-2), and peripheral oedema (seven [15%] grade 1-2, one [2%] grade 3). Dose-limiting toxic effects were recorded in two patients in the cohort receiving alectinib 900 mg twice a day; one individual had grade 3 headache and the other had grade 3 neutropenia. The most common grade 3-4 adverse events were increased levels of γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (two [4%]), a reduction in the number of neutrophils (two [4%]), and hypophosphataemia (two [4%]). Three patients reported four grade 4 serious adverse events that were deemed unrelated to alectinib: acute renal failure; pleural effusion and pericardial effusion; and brain metastasis. At data cut-off (median follow-up 126 days [IQR 84-217]), 44 patients could be assessed for activity. Investigator-assessed objective responses were noted in 24 (55%) patients, with a confirmed complete response in one (2%), a confirmed partial response in 14 (32%), and an unconfirmed partial response in nine (20%). 16 (36%) patients had stable disease; the remaining four (9%) had progressive disease. Of 21 patients with CNS metastases at baseline, 11 (52%) had an objective response; six (29%) had a complete response (three unconfirmed) and five (24%) had a partial response (one unconfirmed); eight (38%) patients had stable disease and the remaining two (10%) had progressive disease. Pharmacokinetic data indicated that mean exposure (AUC0-10) after multiple doses of alectinib (300-600 mg twice a day) was dose-dependent.
INTERPRETATION: Alectinib was well tolerated, with promising antitumour activity in patients with ALK-rearranged NSCLC resistant to crizotinib, including those with CNS metastases. On the basis of activity, tolerability, and pharmacokinetic data, we chose alectinib 600 mg twice a day as the recommended dose for phase 2.
FUNDING: Chugai Pharmaceuticals, F Hoffmann La-Roche.

McFadden DG, Dias-Santagata D, Sadow PM, et al.
Identification of oncogenic mutations and gene fusions in the follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014; 99(11):E2457-62 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/11/2015 Related Publications
BACKGROUND: The diagnosis of the follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (FVPTC) is increasingly common. Recent studies have suggested that FVPTC is heterogeneous and comprises multiple tumor types with distinct biological behaviors and underlying genetics.
OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this work was to identify the prevalence of mutations and gene fusions in known oncogenes in a panel representative of the common spectrum of FVPTC diagnosed at an academic medical center and correlate the clinical and pathological features obtained at the initial diagnosis with the tumor genotype.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed SNaPshot genotyping on a panel of 129 FVPTCs of ≥1 cm for 90 point mutations or small deletions in known oncogenes and tumor suppressors and identified gene fusions using an anchored multiplex PCR assay targeting a panel of rearranged oncogenes.
RESULTS: We identified a mutation or gene fusion in 70% (89 of 127) of cases. Mutations targeting the RAS family of oncogenes were the most frequently observed class of alterations, present in 36% (46 of 127) of cases, followed by BRAF mutation, present in 30% (38 of 127). We also detected oncogenic rearrangements not previously associated with FVPTC, including TFG-ALK and CREB3L2-PPARγ. BRAF mutation was significantly associated with unencapsulated tumor status.
CONCLUSIONS: These data support the hypothesis that FVPTC is composed of distinct biological entities, with one class being identified by BRAF mutation and support the use of clinical genotyping assays that detect a diverse array of rearrangements involving ALK and PPARγ. Additional studies are necessary to identify genetic drivers in the 30% of FVPTCs with no known oncogenic alteration and to better predict behavior in tumors with known genotypes.

Vijayvergia N, Mehra R
Clinical challenges in targeting anaplastic lymphoma kinase in advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2014; 74(3):437-46 [PubMed] Related Publications
The revolution in individualized therapy for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has seen the emergence of a number of molecularly targeted therapies for distinct patient molecular subgroups. Activating anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-gene rearrangement has been detected in 3-7 % of NSCLC cases, and the ALK inhibitor crizotinib is now an approved treatment for patients with tumors harboring this event. However, resistance to ALK-targeted therapies is a ubiquitous problem in the management of advanced ALK-positive NSCLC and can be mediated by secondary kinase mutations or the activation of compensatory alternative oncogenic drivers. New, more potent ALK inhibitors such as ceritinib (LDK378), alectinib (CH5424802), and AP26113 are now emerging, together with an increased knowledge of the molecular basis of resistance. There is a need to evaluate the optimal clinical application of these new agents, either as sequential therapies or in combination with other targeted agents, to combat resistance and prolong survival in patients with ALK-positive NSCLC. The remarkable clinical activity of ALK inhibitors also emphasizes the importance of optimal diagnostic testing algorithms, to ensure that all eligible patients receive these breakthrough therapies.

Mehrotra M, Medeiros LJ, Luthra R, et al.
Identification of putative pathogenic microRNA and its downstream targets in anaplastic lymphoma kinase-negative anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
Hum Pathol. 2014; 45(10):1995-2005 [PubMed] Related Publications
Anaplastic large cell lymphomas (ALCL) are tumors of T/null-cell lineage characterized by uniform CD30 expression. The 2008 World Health Organization classification subdivided ALCLs into 2 groups: anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive (established entity) and ALK-negative (proposed new entity) ALCL. The genetic basis for the pathogenesis of newly categorized ALK- ALCL is poorly understood. In this study, we used microRNA microarray analysis to identify differentially expressed microRNAs in ALK+ and ALK- ALCL. ALK- ALCL showed significantly higher expression of miR-155 (0.888 ± 0.228) compared with ALK+ ALCL (0.0565 ± 0.009) on microarray and by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction in ALK- ALCL compared with ALK+ ALCL (P < .05) with a strong correlation between the 2 platforms (R = 0.9, P < .0003). A novel in situ hybridization method allows direct visualization of expression patterns and relative quantitation of miR-155 (mean score, 2.3 versus 1.3; P = .01) for the first time in tissue sections of ALCL. Among computationally predicted targets of miR-155, we identified ZNF652 (r = -0.57, P = .05), BACH1 (r = 0.88, P = .02), RBAK (r = 0.81, P = .05), TRIM32 (r = 0.92, P = .01), E2F2 (r = 0.81, P = .05), and TP53INP1 (r = -0.31, P = .03) as genes whose expression by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction correlated significantly with the level of miR-155 in ALCL tumor tissue.

Schleiermacher G, Janoueix-Lerosey I, Delattre O
Recent insights into the biology of neuroblastoma.
Int J Cancer. 2014; 135(10):2249-61 [PubMed] Related Publications
Neuroblastoma (NB) is an embryonal tumor of the sympathetic nervous system which accounts for 8-10% of pediatric cancers. It is characterized by a broad spectrum of clinical behaviors from spontaneous regression to fatal outcome despite aggressive therapies. Considerable progress has been made recently in the germline and somatic genetic characterization of patients and tumors. Indeed, predisposition genes that account for a significant proportion of familial and syndromic cases have been identified and genome-wide association studies have retrieved a number of susceptibility loci. In addition, genome-wide sequencing, copy-number and expression studies have been conducted on tumors and have detected important gene modifications, profiles and signatures that have strong implications for the therapeutic stratification of patients. The identification of major players in NB oncogenesis, including MYCN, ALK, PHOX2B and LIN28B, has enabled the development of new animal models. Our review focuses on these recent advances, on the insights they provide on the mechanisms involved in NB development and their applications for the clinical management of patients.

Rosenblum F, Hutchinson LM, Garver J, et al.
Cytology specimens offer an effective alternative to formalin-fixed tissue as demonstrated by novel automated detection for ALK break-apart FISH testing and immunohistochemistry in lung adenocarcinoma.
Cancer Cytopathol. 2014; 122(11):810-21 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Minimally invasive sampling by cytology or core needle biopsy often provides an initial diagnosis for treatment in patients with lung nodules. From these limited specimens, multiple molecular studies are frequently requested. Current guidelines from the US Food and Drug Administration recommend using formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections for the detection of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangement by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). The authors compared alcohol-fixed and formalin-fixed cytology specimens using a novel automated detection for ALK rearrangements by FISH and immunohistochemistry (IHC).
METHODS: ALK FISH testing was performed on 129 lung adenocarcinomas from 71 cytology cases and 58 biopsy/resection specimens using Papanicolaou staining with integrated cytomorphology. IHC with the ALK D5F3 antibody was performed on cases with residual material (88 of 129 cases).
RESULTS: The mean age of the patients was 66 years; there were 62 women and 67 men. ALK gene rearrangement was present in 4% of cytology specimens (3 of 71 specimens) and 7% of surgical specimens (4 of 58 specimens). FISH in 13 cases was technically unsuccessful. Of the 7 FISH-positive cases, only 2 cytology cases (4%) and 2 surgical cases (6%) were found to be positive with the ALK antibody, demonstrating 80% concordance. The one case found to be negative for ALK by IHC demonstrated a variant rearrangement of the ALK 2p23 gene locus by FISH.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of the current study validate the usefulness of alcohol-fixed and/or formalin-fixed cytology specimens for ALK rearrangement by a novel automated FISH method. IHC using the D5F3 antibody for ALK is specific in this limited cohort. The authors also demonstrated that alcohol-fixed cytology specimens can be used for ALK rearrangement by automated FISH, alone or in conjunction with IHC.

Schleiermacher G, Javanmardi N, Bernard V, et al.
Emergence of new ALK mutations at relapse of neuroblastoma.
J Clin Oncol. 2014; 32(25):2727-34 [PubMed] Related Publications
PURPOSE: In neuroblastoma, the ALK receptor tyrosine kinase is activated by point mutations. We investigated the potential role of ALK mutations in neuroblastoma clonal evolution.
METHODS: We analyzed ALK mutations in 54 paired diagnosis-relapse neuroblastoma samples using Sanger sequencing. When an ALK mutation was observed in one paired sample, a minor mutated component in the other sample was searched for by more than 100,000× deep sequencing of the relevant hotspot, with a sensitivity of 0.17%.
RESULTS: All nine ALK-mutated cases at diagnosis demonstrated the same mutation at relapse, in one case in only one of several relapse nodules. In five additional cases, the mutation seemed to be relapse specific, four of which were investigated by deep sequencing. In two cases, no mutation evidence was observed at diagnosis. In one case, the mutation was present at a subclonal level (0.798%) at diagnosis, whereas in another case, two different mutations resulting in identical amino acid changes were detected, one only at diagnosis and the other only at relapse. Further evidence of clonal evolution of ALK-mutated cells was provided by establishment of a fully ALK-mutated cell line from a primary sample with an ALK-mutated cell population at subclonal level (6.6%).
CONCLUSION: In neuroblastoma, subclonal ALK mutations can be present at diagnosis with subsequent clonal expansion at relapse. Given the potential of ALK-targeted therapy, the significant spatiotemporal variation of ALK mutations is of utmost importance, highlighting the potential of deep sequencing for detection of subclonal mutations with a sensitivity 100-fold that of Sanger sequencing and the importance of serial samplings for therapeutic decisions.

Blackhall FH, Peters S, Bubendorf L, et al.
Prevalence and clinical outcomes for patients with ALK-positive resected stage I to III adenocarcinoma: results from the European Thoracic Oncology Platform Lungscape Project.
J Clin Oncol. 2014; 32(25):2780-7 [PubMed] Related Publications
PURPOSE: The prevalence of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene fusion (ALK positivity) in early-stage non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) varies by population examined and detection method used. The Lungscape ALK project was designed to address the prevalence and prognostic impact of ALK positivity in resected lung adenocarcinoma in a primarily European population.
METHODS: Analysis of ALK status was performed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) in tissue sections of 1,281 patients with adenocarcinoma in the European Thoracic Oncology Platform Lungscape iBiobank. Positive patients were matched with negative patients in a 1:2 ratio, both for IHC and for FISH testing. Testing was performed in 16 participating centers, using the same protocol after passing external quality assessment.
RESULTS: Positive ALK IHC staining was present in 80 patients (prevalence of 6.2%; 95% CI, 4.9% to 7.6%). Of these, 28 patients were ALK FISH positive, corresponding to a lower bound for the prevalence of FISH positivity of 2.2%. FISH specificity was 100%, and FISH sensitivity was 35.0% (95% CI, 24.7% to 46.5%), with a sensitivity value of 81.3% (95% CI, 63.6% to 92.8%) for IHC 2+/3+ patients. The hazard of death for FISH-positive patients was lower than for IHC-negative patients (P = .022). Multivariable models, adjusted for patient, tumor, and treatment characteristics, and matched cohort analysis confirmed that ALK FISH positivity is a predictor for better overall survival (OS).
CONCLUSION: In this large cohort of surgically resected lung adenocarcinomas, the prevalence of ALK positivity was 6.2% using IHC and at least 2.2% using FISH. A screening strategy based on IHC or H-score could be envisaged. ALK positivity (by either IHC or FISH) was related to better OS.

Lee HJ, Zhuang G, Cao Y, et al.
Drug resistance via feedback activation of Stat3 in oncogene-addicted cancer cells.
Cancer Cell. 2014; 26(2):207-21 [PubMed] Related Publications
Pathway-targeted cancer drugs can produce dramatic responses that are invariably limited by the emergence of drug-resistant cells. We found that many drug-treated "oncogene-addicted" cancer cells engage a positive feedback loop leading to Stat3 activation, consequently promoting cell survival and limiting overall drug response. This was observed in cancer cells driven by diverse activated kinases, including EGFR, HER2, ALK, and MET, as well as mutant KRAS. Specifically, MEK inhibition led to autocrine activation of Stat3 via the FGF receptor and JAK kinases, and pharmacological inhibition of MEK together with JAK and FGFR enhanced tumor regression. These findings suggest that inhibition of a Stat3 feedback loop may augment the response to a broad spectrum of drugs that target pathways of oncogene addiction.

Kimbara S, Takeda K, Fukushima H, et al.
A case report of epithelioid inflammatory myofibroblastic sarcoma with RANBP2-ALK fusion gene treated with the ALK inhibitor, crizotinib.
Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2014; 44(9):868-71 [PubMed] Related Publications
Epithelioid inflammatory myofibroblastic sarcoma is a variant of inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor with aggressive clinical course associated with RANBP2-ALK fusion. The present report describes a case of a 22-year-old Japanese man with a pelvic mesenchymal neoplasm. The feature of the neoplasms, including epithelioid morphology, anaplastic lymphoma kinase staining on the nuclear membrane, and results from the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, led to diagnosis of epithelioid inflammatory myofibroblastic sarcoma with RANBP2-ALK fusion. Despite two surgical excision procedures, local recurrence rapidly occurred, and the tumor developed resistance to conventional chemotherapy with doxorubicin. Subsequent administration of crizotinib, an oral anaplastic lymphoma kinase inhibitor, resulted in tumor shrinkage. Distinguishing epithelioid inflammatory myofibroblastic sarcoma from conventional inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor is important, and crizotinib is a promising treatment for this aggressive tumor.

Roth A, Streubel A, Grah C, et al.
A rare case of an EML4-ALK-rearranged lung adenocarcinoma missed by in situ-hybridization but detected by RT-PCR.
J Clin Pathol. 2014; 67(9):839-40 [PubMed] Related Publications

Hiraoka M
[Companion diagnostics with FISH assay (HER2, ALK)].
Rinsho Byori. 2014; 62(4):390-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
In recent anti-cancer drug treatment, personalized medicine has become popular with the development of many molecularly-targeted drugs. Companion Diagnostics (CDx) identify and detect biomarkers to predict whether a drug will work or have adverse effects on patients. We developed two CDx with FISH assays, the PathVysion HER-2 DNA Probe Kit and Vysis ALK Break Apart FISH Probe Kit. The PathVysion HER-2 DNA Probe Kit is a test to detect amplification of the HER2 gene in tissue samples from breast cancer patients to aid in determining and identifying patients eligible for treatment with Trastuzumab. The Vysis ALK Break Apart FISH Probe Kit is a test to detect rearrangements involving the ALK gene in tissue samples from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients to aid in identifying patients eligible for treatment with Crizotinib. In this article, we review the CDx, focusing on HER2 gene and ALK fusion testing.

Fukutsuka K, Takubo T
[Companion diagnostics in the era of personalized medicine--chairmen's introductory remarks].
Rinsho Byori. 2014; 62(4):378-80 [PubMed] Related Publications
Personalized medicine is a medical model that proposes the customization of treatment for individual patients. In this model, diagnostic tests are essential for selecting safer and more efficacious treatments. The term "companion diagnostics" has been used to describe these tests, whereby molecular assays that measure the levels of proteins or specific gene mutations are used to provide a specific therapy for an individual by stratifying the disease status, selecting the proper medication, and tailoring dosages. Examples of companion diagnostics in the field of cancer medicine for molecular targeted therapy include tests for the ALK-fusion gene in non-small cell lung cancer and expression of CCR4 in adult T-cell leukemia. For breast cancer, the expression of HER2 protein is evaluated by immunohistochemistry (IHC), and gene amplification of HER2 is tested by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH); both tests consist of pre-analysis, analysis, and post-analysis processes that require quality control to ensure the reliability of the results. This symposium includes: 1) future aspects of companion diagnostics addressing many of the problems that must be overcome, 2) companion diagnostics using FISH focusing on HER2 amplification and ALK alteration, 3) newly developed diagnostic tests using tumor specimens and cell-free DNA in serum, and 4) CCR4 expression detected by IHC and flow cytometry.

Ormanns S, Assmann G, Reu S, et al.
ALK expression is absent in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2014; 140(9):1625-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
PURPOSE: It has not yet been clearly defined whether anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) expression can be detected in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).
METHODS: Within a retrospective study, archival PDAC surgical specimens were screened for ALK expression in tumor and normal tissue by immunohistochemistry (IHC) with the use of a specific ALK detection kit on a tissue microarray (TMA).
RESULTS: PDAC tumor tissue was available from 99 resected cases: fifty-eight out of 99 patients (59 %) had nodal-positive disease, and 80 patients (81 %) had pT3 tumors. Forty-nine patients underwent R0 resection, and in 48 cases, resection status was classified R1. Regarding ALK expression, five cases showed faint immunoreactivity on TMA, which was negative on whole mount sections. All other 94 cases showed no ALK expression.
CONCLUSION: In 99 PDAC cases, no ALK expression was detected by IHC; ALK thus may not serve as a relevant drug target in PDAC.

Iwama E, Takayama K, Baba E, Nakanishi Y
[Personalized medicine in non-small-cell carcinoma].
Fukuoka Igaku Zasshi. 2014; 105(3):57-66 [PubMed] Related Publications

Ryslik GA, Cheng Y, Cheung KH, et al.
A spatial simulation approach to account for protein structure when identifying non-random somatic mutations.
BMC Bioinformatics. 2014; 15:231 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/11/2015 Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Current research suggests that a small set of "driver" mutations are responsible for tumorigenesis while a larger body of "passenger" mutations occur in the tumor but do not progress the disease. Due to recent pharmacological successes in treating cancers caused by driver mutations, a variety of methodologies that attempt to identify such mutations have been developed. Based on the hypothesis that driver mutations tend to cluster in key regions of the protein, the development of cluster identification algorithms has become critical.
RESULTS: We have developed a novel methodology, SpacePAC (Spatial Protein Amino acid Clustering), that identifies mutational clustering by considering the protein tertiary structure directly in 3D space. By combining the mutational data in the Catalogue of Somatic Mutations in Cancer (COSMIC) and the spatial information in the Protein Data Bank (PDB), SpacePAC is able to identify novel mutation clusters in many proteins such as FGFR3 and CHRM2. In addition, SpacePAC is better able to localize the most significant mutational hotspots as demonstrated in the cases of BRAF and ALK. The R package is available on Bioconductor at:
CONCLUSION: SpacePAC adds a valuable tool to the identification of mutational clusters while considering protein tertiary structure.

Morodomi Y, Takenoyama M, Inamasu E, et al.
Non-small cell lung cancer patients with EML4-ALK fusion gene are insensitive to cytotoxic chemotherapy.
Anticancer Res. 2014; 34(7):3825-30 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Although patients with the echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4-anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene (EML4-ALK) re-arrangement and epidermal growth factor gene EGFR mutations have proven sensitive to specific inhibitors, there is currently no consensus regarding the sensitivity of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with such mutations to cytotoxic chemotherapy.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: The responses to first-line cytotoxic chemotherapy were retrospectively compared between advanced or postoperative recurrent patients with non-squamous NSCLC who harbor the EML4-ALK fusion gene (ALK+), EGFR mutation (EGFR+), or neither abnormality (wild-type).
RESULTS: Data for 22 ALK+, 30 EGFR+, and 60 wild-type patients were analyzed. The ALK+ group had a significantly lower response rate than the other two groups. Progression-free survival was significantly shorter in the ALK+ cohort compared to the EGFR+ (p<0.001) and wild-type cohorts (p=0.0121).
CONCLUSION: NSCLC patients with the EML4-ALK fusion gene might be relatively insensitivite to cytotoxic chemotherapy.

Homa I, Sawicki M, Wojas-Krawczyk K, et al.
Rare co-existence of mutation in KRAS and ALK gene re-arrangement in an adenocarcinoma patient--a case report.
Anticancer Res. 2014; 34(7):3701-5 [PubMed] Related Publications
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene re-arrangements are present in approximately 4% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), mostly in non-smokers with adenocarcinoma. V-KI-RAS2 Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS) mutations are more common in smokers. These molecular lesions were usually described as are mutually exclusive. We herein describe a rare case of co-existence of ALK and KRAS abnormalities in adenocarcinoma tumor with massive local growth (disproportionality of clinical symptoms) and rapid central nervous system (CNS) metastases spread. T3N1M0 stage tumor (size: 10×12×13 cm) in upper lobe of the right lung was diagnosed in a 56-year-old Caucasian male smoker. Adenocarcinoma of solid predominant was surgically resected with chest wall reconstruction. One month after surgery, CNS metastases were diagnosed and subsequently treated with radiotherapy. We noted an 8-month overall survival from tumor resection. In the case of comorbidity of disorders in the ALK (uncertain prognostic significance) and KRAS gene (described as unfavorable prognostic factor), these abnormalities may ultimately decide the course of the disease in the form of brain metastases.

Yang L, Li G, Zhao L, et al.
Blocking the PI3K pathway enhances the efficacy of ALK-targeted therapy in EML4-ALK-positive nonsmall-cell lung cancer.
Tumour Biol. 2014; 35(10):9759-67 [PubMed] Related Publications
Targeted therapy based on ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors (ALK-TKIs) has made significant achievements in individuals with EML4-ALK (echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4 gene and the anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene) fusion positive nonsmall-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, a high fraction of patients receive inferior clinical response to such treatment in the initial therapy, and the exact mechanisms underlying this process need to be further investigated. In this study, we revealed a persistently activated PI3K/AKT signaling that mediates the drug ineffectiveness. We found that genetic or pharmacological inhibition of ALK markedly abrogated phosphorylated STAT3 and ERK, but it failed to suppress AKT activity or induce apoptosis, in EML4-ALK-positive H2228 cells. Furthermore, targeted RNA interference of PI3K pathway components restored sensitivity to TAE684 treatment at least partially due to increased apoptosis. Combined TAE684 with PI3K inhibitor synergistically inhibited the proliferation of EML4-ALK-positive cells in vitro and significantly suppressed the growth of H2228 xenografts in vivo, suggesting the potential clinical application of such combinatorial therapy regimens in patients with EML4-ALK positive lung cancer.

Kataoka TR, Yamashita N, Furuhata A, et al.
An inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor exhibiting immunoreactivity to KIT: a case report focusing on a diagnostic pitfall.
World J Surg Oncol. 2014; 12:186 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/11/2015 Related Publications
Inflammatory myofibroblastic tumors (IMTs) and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are both spindle cell tumors, and occur rarely in the wall of the urinary bladder. In general, immunostaining allows differentiation of IMTs and GISTs. Most IMTs are positive for anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) and negative for KIT, whereas most GISTs are ALK-negative and KIT-positive. Here, we describe a case of a spindle cell tumor in the wall of the urinary bladder. The spindle cells were positive for both ALK and KIT, and it was thus difficult to determine whether the tumor was an IMT or a GIST. We eventually diagnosed an IMT, because ALK gene rearrangement was confirmed by fluorescent in-situ hybridization. Cytoplasmic staining for KIT and the absence of other GIST markers, including DOG1 and platelet-derived growth factor α, indicated that the tumor was not a GIST. Therefore, IMTs should be included in the differential diagnosis of spindle cell tumors, even those that are KIT-positive.

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