Lung Adenocarcinoma with Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) Rearrangement Presenting as Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Site: Recognition and Treatment Implications

Drugs Real World Outcomes. 2016 Mar;3(1):115-120. doi: 10.1007/s40801-016-0064-7.


Background: Molecular cancer classifier assays are being used with increasing frequency to predict tissue of origin and direct site-specific therapy for patients with carcinoma of unknown primary site (CUP).

Objective: We postulated some CUP patients predicted to have non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) by molecular cancer classifier assay may have anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearranged tumors, and benefit from treatment with ALK inhibitors.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed CUP patients who had the 92-gene molecular cancer classifier assay (CancerTYPE ID; bioTheranostics, Inc.) performed on tumor biopsies to identify patients predicted to have NSCLC. Beginning in 2011, we have tested these patients for ALK rearrangements and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activating mutations, based on the proven therapeutic value of these targets in NSCLC. We identified CUP patients with predicted NSCLC who were subsequently found to have ALK rearrangements.

Results: NSCLC was predicted by the molecular cancer classifier assay in 37 of 310 CUP patients. Twenty-one of these patients were tested for ALK rearrangements, and four had an EML4-ALK fusion gene detected. The diagnosis of lung cancer was strongly suggested in only one patient prior to molecular testing. One patient received ALK inhibitor treatment and has had prolonged benefit.

Conclusions: We report on patients with lung adenocarcinoma and ALK rearrangements originally diagnosed as CUP who were identified using a molecular cancer classifier assay. Although ALK inhibitors treatment experience is limited, this newly identifiable group of lung cancer patients should be considered for therapy according to guidelines for stage IV ALK-positive NSCLC.