A Screening Method for the ALK Fusion Gene in NSCLC

Front Oncol. 2012 Mar 16;2:24. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2012.00024. eCollection 2012.


Lung cancer research has recently made significant progress in understanding the molecular pathogenesis of lung cancer and in developing treatments for it. Such achievements are directly utilized in clinical practice. Indeed, the echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4-anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) fusion gene was first described in non-small cell lung cancer in 2007, and a molecularly targeted drug against the fusion was approved in 2011. However, lung cancer with the ALK fusion constitutes only a small fraction of lung cancers; therefore, efficient patient selection is crucial for successful treatment using the ALK inhibitor. Currently, RT-PCR, fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), and immunohistochemistry are commonly used to detect the ALK fusion. Although FISH is currently the gold standard technique, there are no perfect methods for detecting these genetic alterations. In this article, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each method and the possible criteria for selecting patients who are more likely to have the ALK fusion. If we can successfully screen patients, then ALK inhibitor treatment will be the best example of personalized therapy in terms of selecting patients with an uncommon genotype from a larger group with the same tumor phenotype. In other words, the personalized therapy may offer a new challenge for current clinical oncology.

Keywords: FISH; RT-PCR; anaplastic large cell lymphoma kinase; immunohistochemistry; molecular targeted drugs; non-small cell lung cancer; screening.