Lorlatinib Treatment Elicits Multiple On- and Off-Target Mechanisms of Resistance in ALK-Driven Cancer

Cancer Res. 2018 Dec 15;78(24):6866-6880. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-1867. Epub 2018 Oct 15.


: Targeted therapy changed the standard of care in ALK-dependent tumors. However, resistance remains a major challenge. Lorlatinib is a third-generation ALK inhibitor that inhibits most ALK mutants resistant to current ALK inhibitors. In this study, we utilize lorlatinib-resistant anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and neuroblastoma cell lines in vitro and in vivo to investigate the acquisition of resistance and its underlying mechanisms. ALCL cells acquired compound ALK mutations G1202R/G1269A and C1156F/L1198F in vitro at high drug concentrations. ALCL xenografts selected in vivo showed recurrent N1178H (5/10 mice) and G1269A (4/10 mice) mutations. Interestingly, intracellular localization of NPM/ALKN1178H skewed toward the cytoplasm in human cells, possibly mimicking overexpression. RNA sequencing of resistant cells showed significant alteration of PI3K/AKT and RAS/MAPK pathways. Functional validation by small-molecule inhibitors confirmed the involvement of these pathways in resistance to lorlatinib. NSCLC cells exposed in vitro to lorlatinib acquired hyperactivation of EGFR, which was blocked by erlotinib to restore sensitivity to lorlatinib. In neuroblastoma, whole-exome sequencing and proteomic profiling of lorlatinib-resistant cells revealed a truncating NF1 mutation and hyperactivation of EGFR and ErbB4. These data provide an extensive characterization of resistance mechanisms that may arise in different ALK-positive cancers following lorlatinib treatment. SIGNIFICANCE: High-throughput genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic profiling reveals various mechanisms by which multiple tumor types acquire resistance to the third-generation ALK inhibitor lorlatinib.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aminopyridines
  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lactams
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic / pharmacology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lymphoma, Large-Cell, Anaplastic / drug therapy*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neuroblastoma / drug therapy
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pyrazoles
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • Aminopyridines
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Lactams
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic
  • Pyrazoles
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • ALK protein, human
  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • lorlatinib