ALK and NSCLC: Targeted therapy with ALK inhibitors

F1000 Med Rep. 2011:3:21. doi: 10.3410/M3-21. Epub 2011 Nov 1.


For many years treatment for advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has employed chemotherapy regimens for patient care, with limited effect. Five-year survival rates for these patients are not encouraging. However, for a subgroup of these patients, there have been radical changes over recent years. Our understanding of the basic pathology behind NSCLC at the molecular level has offered up a host of new molecularly targeted therapies, which are revolutionizing this area of cancer care. Results from recent clinical trials provide hope for NSCLC patients harboring oncogenic translocations involving the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) receptor tyrosine kinase. Just as inhibition of the breakpoint cluster region-ABL complex has changed the face of chronic myeloid leukemia diagnosis, oncogenic ALK fusions offer a step forward in the diagnosis and treatment of ALK-positive NSCLC. This article discusses the current knowledge and potential implications concerning ALK inhibitors and NSCLC.