High level of chromosomal instability in circulating tumor cells of ROS1-rearranged non-small-cell lung cancer

Ann Oncol. 2015 Jul;26(7):1408-15. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdv165. Epub 2015 Apr 6.


Background: Genetic aberrations affecting the c-ros oncogene 1 (ROS1) tyrosine kinase gene have been reported in a small subset of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We evaluated whether ROS1-chromosomal rearrangements could be detected in circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and examined tumor heterogeneity of CTCs and tumor biopsies in ROS1-rearranged NSCLC patients.

Patients and methods: Using isolation by size of epithelial tumor cells (ISET) filtration and filter-adapted-fluorescence in situ hybridization (FA-FISH), ROS1 rearrangement was examined in CTCs from four ROS1-rearranged patients treated with the ROS1-inhibitor, crizotinib, and four ROS1-negative patients. ROS1-gene alterations observed in CTCs at baseline from ROS1-rearranged patients were compared with those present in tumor biopsies and in CTCs during crizotinib treatment. Numerical chromosomal instability (CIN) of CTCs was assessed by DNA content quantification and chromosome enumeration.

Results: ROS1 rearrangement was detected in the CTCs of all four patients with ROS1 rearrangement previously confirmed by tumor biopsy. In ROS1-rearranged patients, median number of ROS1-rearranged CTCs at baseline was 34.5 per 3 ml blood (range, 24-55). In ROS1-negative patients, median background hybridization of ROS1-rearranged CTCs was 7.5 per 3 ml blood (range, 7-11). Tumor heterogeneity, assessed by ROS1 copy number, was significantly higher in baseline CTCs compared with paired tumor biopsies in the three patients experiencing PR or SD (P < 0.0001). Copy number in ROS1-rearranged CTCs increased significantly in two patients who progressed during crizotinib treatment (P < 0.02). CTCs from ROS1-rearranged patients had a high DNA content and gain of chromosomes, indicating high levels of aneuploidy and numerical CIN.

Conclusion: We provide the first proof-of-concept that CTCs can be used for noninvasive and sensitive detection of ROS1 rearrangement in NSCLC patients. CTCs from ROS1-rearranged patients show considerable heterogeneity of ROS1-gene abnormalities and elevated numerical CIN, a potential mechanism to escape ROS1-inhibitor therapy in ROS1-rearranged NSCLC tumors.

Keywords: FA-FISH; ROS1-rearranged non-small-cell lung cancer; circulating tumor cells; filtration enrichment; predictive biomarker.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / blood
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Chromosomal Instability*
  • Crizotinib
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gene Rearrangement*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Lung Neoplasms / blood
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use
  • Pyridines / therapeutic use
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyridines
  • Crizotinib
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • ROS1 protein, human