Pan-Trk Immunohistochemistry Is an Efficient and Reliable Screen for the Detection of NTRK Fusions

Am J Surg Pathol. 2017 Nov;41(11):1547-1551. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0000000000000911.


Activating neurotrophic tyrosine receptor kinase (NTRK) fusions, typically detected using nucleic-acid based assays, are highly targetable and define certain tumors. Here, we explore the utility of pan-TRK immunohistochemistry (IHC) to detect NTRK fusions. NTRK rearrangements were detected prospectively using MSK-IMPACT, a DNA-based next-generation sequencing assay. Transcription of novel NTRK rearrangements into potentially functional fusion transcripts was assessed via Archer Dx fusion assay. Pan-Trk IHC testing with mAb EPR17341 was performed on all NTRK rearranged cases and 20 cases negative for NTRK fusions on Archer. Of 23 cases with NTRK rearrangements, 15 had known activating fusions. Archer detected fusion transcripts in 6 of 8 novel NTRK rearrangements of uncertain functional significance. Pan-Trk IHC was positive in 20 of 21 cases with NTRK fusion transcripts confirmed by Archer. The discordant negative case was a mismatch repair- deficient colorectal carcinoma with an ETV6-NTRK3 fusion. All 20 additional Archer-negative cases had concordant pan-TRK IHC results. Pan-Trk IHC sensitivity and specificity for transcribed NTRK fusions was 95.2% and 100%, respectively. All positive IHC cases had cytoplasmic staining while the following fusion partner-specific patterns were discovered: all 5 LMNA-NTRK1 fusions displayed nuclear membrane accentuation, all 4 TPM3/4 fusions displayed cellular membrane accentuation, and half (3/6) of ETV6-NTRK3 fusions displayed nuclear staining. Pan-Trk IHC is a time-efficient and tissue-efficient screen for NTRK fusions, particularly in driver-negative advanced malignancies and potential cases of secretory carcinoma and congenital fibrosarcoma. Pan-Trk IHC can help determine whether translation occurs for novel NTRK rearrangements.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Biopsy
  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • Female
  • Gene Dosage
  • Gene Fusion*
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptor, trkA / genetics
  • Receptor, trkB / genetics
  • Receptor, trkC / genetics
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / genetics*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • NTRK1 protein, human
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor, trkA
  • Receptor, trkB
  • Receptor, trkC
  • tropomyosin-related kinase-B, human