Oncogenic ROS1 fusion proteins are molecular drivers in multiple malignancies, including a subset of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The phylogenetic proximity of the ROS1 and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) catalytic domains led to the clinical repurposing of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved ALK inhibitor crizotinib as a ROS1 inhibitor. Despite the antitumor activity of crizotinib observed in both ROS1- and ALK-rearranged NSCLC patients, resistance due to acquisition of ROS1 or ALK kinase domain mutations has been observed clinically, spurring the development of second-generation inhibitors. Here, we profile the sensitivity and selectivity of seven ROS1 and/or ALK inhibitors at various levels of clinical development. In contrast to crizotinib's dual ROS1/ALK activity, cabozantinib (XL-184) and its structural analog foretinib (XL-880) demonstrate a striking selectivity for ROS1 over ALK. Molecular dynamics simulation studies reveal structural features that distinguish the ROS1 and ALK kinase domains and contribute to differences in binding site and kinase selectivity of the inhibitors tested. Cell-based resistance profiling studies demonstrate that the ROS1-selective inhibitors retain efficacy against the recently reported CD74-ROS1(G2032R) mutant whereas the dual ROS1/ALK inhibitors are ineffective. Taken together, inhibitor profiling and stringent characterization of the structure-function differences between the ROS1 and ALK kinase domains will facilitate future rational drug design for ROS1- and ALK-driven NSCLC and other malignancies.
Keywords: ALK; ROS1; inhibitor; kinase; structural modelling.