The tropomyosin receptor kinase (Trk) receptor family comprises 3 transmembrane proteins referred to as Trk A, B and C (TrkA, TrkB and TrkC) receptors that are encoded by the NTRK1, NTRK2 and NTRK3 genes, respectively. These receptor tyrosine kinases are expressed in human neuronal tissue and play an essential role in the physiology of development and function of the nervous system through activation by neurotrophins. Gene fusions involving NTRK genes lead to transcription of chimeric Trk proteins with constitutively activated or overexpressed kinase function conferring oncogenic potential. These genetic abnormalities have recently emerged as targets for cancer therapy, because novel compounds have been developed that are selective inhibitors of the constitutively active rearranged proteins. Developments in this field are being aided by next generation sequencing methods as tools for unbiased gene fusions discovery. In this article, we review the role of NTRK gene fusions across several tumour histologies, and the promises and challenges of targeting such genetic alterations for cancer therapy.
Keywords: Molecular oncology; NTRK; Target therapy; gene fusions.