An autopsy case of anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive lung cancer exacerbated in a short period of time: a case report

J Med Case Rep. 2019 Apr 29;13(1):118. doi: 10.1186/s13256-019-2054-3.


Background: Anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive lung cancer is a form of lung cancer that accounts for approximately 5% of non-small cell lung cancers. Recently, anaplastic lymphoma kinase inhibitors have been used for treatment of anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive lung cancer, and their high clinical effect has also been demonstrated in cases of advanced stage lung cancer. Alectinib is an anaplastic lymphoma kinase inhibitor that it is recognized as a standard drug for primary therapy because of its superiority to crizotinib.

Case presentation: A 37-year-old Japanese man was admitted to our hospital due to multiple brain metastases. An autopsy report revealed that the cause of death was anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive lung cancer, exacerbated in a short period despite treatment with alectinib. Necropsy revealed anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung, suggesting that it was involved in the prognosis of this patient. Based on the autopsy results, we reviewed the pathological tissue from transbronchial lung biopsy at the time of clinical diagnosis. The tissue specimen for clinical diagnosis in this case was a papillary adenocarcinoma. However, when this tissue was immunostained, thyroid transcription factor 1-negative and cytokeratin 5/6-positive parts were recognized. This result indicates that we could diagnose this patient as having had adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung.

Conclusion: In cases of anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive lung cancer poorly responsive to anaplastic lymphoma kinase inhibitors, re-examination of the tissue should be considered because there is a possibility of anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive adenosquamous carcinoma.

Keywords: ALK-positive adenosquamous carcinoma; ALK-positive lung cancer; Alectinib.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase / genetics
  • Autopsy
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / pathology*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase