Exon array profiling detects EML4-ALK fusion in breast, colorectal, and non-small cell lung cancers

Mol Cancer Res. 2009 Sep;7(9):1466-76. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-08-0522. Epub 2009 Sep 8.


The echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4-anaplastic lymphoma kinase (EML4-ALK) fusion gene has been identified as an oncogene in a subset of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). We used profiling of cancer genomes on an exon array to develop a novel computational method for the global search of gene rearrangements. This approach led to the detection of EML4-ALK fusion in breast and colorectal carcinomas in addition to NSCLC. Screening of a large collection of patient tumor samples showed the presence of EML4-ALK fusion in 2.4% of breast (5 of 209), 2.4% of colorectal (2 of 83), and in 11.3% of NSCLC (12 of 106). Besides previously known EML4-ALK variants 1 (E13; A20) and 2 (E20; A20), a novel variant E21; A20 was found in colorectal carcinoma. The presence of an EML-ALK rearrangement was verified by identifying genomic fusion points in tumor samples representative of breast, colon, and NSCLC. EML4-ALK translocation was also confirmed by fluorescence in situ hybridization assay, which revealed its substantial heterogeneity in both primary tumors and tumor-derived cell lines. To elucidate the functional significance of EML4-ALK, we examined the growth of cell lines harboring the fusion following EML4 and ALK silencing by small interfering RNA. Significant growth inhibition was observed in some but not all cell lines, suggesting their variable dependence on ALK-mediated cell survival signaling. Collectively, these findings show the recurrence of EML4-ALK fusion in multiple solid tumors and further substantiate its role in tumorigenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Chromosome Breakpoints
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Exons*
  • Female
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis / methods
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / genetics*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • EML4-ALK fusion protein, human
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • RNA, Small Interfering