Purpose: The ROS1 tyrosine kinase is activated through ROS1 gene rearrangements in 1-2% of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), conferring sensitivity to treatment with the ALK/ROS1/MET inhibitor crizotinib. Currently, insights into patterns of metastatic spread and mechanisms of crizotinib resistance among ROS1-positive patients are limited.
Patients and methods: We reviewed clinical and radiographic imaging data of patients with ROS1- and ALK-positive NSCLC in order to compare patterns of metastatic spread at initial metastatic diagnosis. To determine molecular mechanisms of crizotinib resistance, we also analyzed repeat biopsies from a cohort of ROS1-positive patients progressing on crizotinib.
Results: We identified 39 and 196 patients with advanced ROS1- and ALK-positive NSCLC, respectively. ROS1-positive patients had significantly lower rates of extrathoracic metastases (ROS1 59.0%, ALK 83.2%, P=0.002), including lower rates of brain metastases (ROS1 19.4%, ALK 39.1%; P = 0.033), at initial metastatic diagnosis. Despite similar overall survival between ALK- and ROS1-positive patients treated with crizotinib (median 3.0 versus 2.5 years, respectively; P=0.786), ROS1-positive patients also had a significantly lower cumulative incidence of brain metastases (34% vs. 73% at 5 years; P<0.0001). Additionally, we identified 16 patients who underwent a total of 17 repeat biopsies following progression on crizotinib. ROS1 resistance mutations were identified in 53% of specimens, including 9/14 (64%) non-brain metastasis specimens. ROS1 mutations included: G2032R (41%), D2033N (6%), and S1986F (6%).
Conclusions: Compared to ALK rearrangements, ROS1 rearrangements are associated with lower rates of extrathoracic metastases, including fewer brain metastases, at initial metastatic diagnosis. ROS1 resistance mutations, particularly G2032R, appear to be the predominant mechanism of resistance to crizotinib, underscoring the need to develop novel ROS1 inhibitors with activity against these resistant mutants.
Keywords: ALK; RET; ROS1; acquired resistance; crizotinib.