Identification of anaplastic lymphoma kinase as a potential therapeutic target in ovarian cancer

Cancer Res. 2012 Jul 1;72(13):3312-23. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-3931. Epub 2012 May 8.


Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancer. Improvement in the clinical outcome of patients is likely to be achieved by the identification of molecular events that underlie the oncogenesis of ovarian cancer. Here we show that the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) is aberrantly activated in ovarian cancer. Using an unbiased and global phosphoproteomic approach, we profiled 69 Chinese primary ovarian tumor tissues and found ALK to be aberrantly expressed and phosphorylated in 4 tumors. Genetic characterization of these ALK-positive tumors indicated that full-length ALK expression in two serous carcinoma patients is consistent with ALK gene copy number gain, whereas a stromal sarcoma patient carries a novel transmembrane ALK fusion gene: FN1-ALK. Biochemical and functional analysis showed that both full-length ALK and FN1-ALK are oncogenic, and tumors expressing ALK or FN1-ALK are sensitive to ALK kinase inhibitors. Furthermore, immunohistochemical analysis of ovarian tumor tissue microarray detected aberrant ALK expression in 2% to 4% serous carcinoma patients. Our findings provide new insights into the pathogenesis of ovarian cancer and identify ALK as a potential therapeutic target in a subset of serous ovarian carcinoma and stromal sarcoma patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • DNA Primers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / drug effects
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Tissue Array Analysis


  • DNA Primers
  • ALK protein, human
  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases