Objectives: Recurrent gene fusions of anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase (ALK) and echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4 (EML4) have been recently identified in ∼5% of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) and are targets for selective tyrosine kinase inhibitors. While fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) is the current gold standard for detection of EML4-ALK rearrangements, several limitations exist including high costs, time-consuming evaluation and somewhat equivocal interpretation of results. In contrast, targeted massive parallel sequencing has been introduced as a powerful method for simultaneous and sensitive detection of multiple somatic mutations even in limited biopsies, and is currently evolving as the method of choice for molecular diagnostic work-up of NSCLCs.
Materials and methods: We developed a novel approach for indirect detection of EML4-ALK rearrangements based on 454 massive parallel sequencing after reverse transcription and subsequent multiplex amplification (multiplex ALK RNA-seq) which takes advantage of unbalanced expression of the 5' and 3' ALK mRNA regions. Two lung cancer cell lines and a selected series of 32 NSCLC samples including 11 cases with EML4-ALK rearrangement were analyzed with this novel approach in comparison to ALK FISH, ALK qRT-PCR and EML4-ALK RT-PCR.
Results: The H2228 cell line with known EML4-ALK rearrangement showed 171 and 729 reads for 5' and 3' ALK regions, respectively, demonstrating a clearly unbalanced expression pattern. In contrast, the H1299 cell line with ALK wildtype status displayed no reads for both ALK regions. Considering a threshold of 100 reads for 3' ALK region as indirect indicator of EML4-ALK rearrangement, there was 100% concordance between the novel multiplex ALK RNA-seq approach and ALK FISH among all 32 NSCLC samples.
Conclusion: Multiplex ALK RNA-seq is a sensitive and specific method for indirect detection of EML4-ALK rearrangements, and can be easily implemented in panel based molecular diagnostic work-up of NSCLCs by massive parallel sequencing.
Keywords: 454 massive parallel sequencing; ALK rearrangement; EML4-ALK; Molecular diagnostic; NSCLC.
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