Computed Tomography Imaging Characteristics of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer With Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase Rearrangements: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Clin Lung Cancer. 2019 Sep;20(5):339-349. doi: 10.1016/j.cllc.2019.05.006. Epub 2019 May 11.


Introduction: Several studies have suggested that non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients who harbor anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearrangement might have different imaging features compared with those without the rearrangement. The goal of this work was to systematically investigate the computed tomography (CT) imaging features of ALK-rearranged NSCLC.

Materials and methods: We searched published studies that investigated CT imaging features of ALK-rearranged NSCLC compared with ALK-negative, including epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mutant and ALK/EGFR-negative, NSCLC. We extracted clinicopathologic characteristics and CT imaging features of patients in the included studies. Features were compared and tested in the form of odds ratios (ORs) or weighted mean differences at a 95% confidence interval.

Results: Twelve studies with 2210 patients with NSCLC were included. Compared with ALK-negative NSCLC, ALK-rearranged NSCLC was more likely to be solid (OR, 2.37; P < .001) and less likely to have cavitation (OR, 0.45; P = .002). In advanced stages, patients with ALK-rearranged NSCLC, compared with EGFR-mutant NSCLC, were more likely to have lymphadenopathy (OR, 3.47; P < .001), pericardial metastasis (OR, 2.18; P = .04), pleural metastasis (OR, 2.07; P = .004), and lymphangitic carcinomatosis (OR, 3.41; P = .02), but less likely to have lung metastasis (OR, 0.52; P = .003). Compared with ALK/EGFR-negative NSCLC, ALK-rearranged NSCLC was more likely to have lymphangitic carcinomatosis (OR, 3.88; P = .03), pleural metastasis (OR, 1.89; P = .02), and pleural effusion (OR, 2.94; P = .003).

Conclusion: ALK-rearranged NSCLC has imaging features that are different compared with EGFR-mutant and ALK/EGFR-negative NSCLC. These imaging features might provide clues as to the presence of ALK rearrangement and help in the selection of patients who might benefit from expedited molecular testing or repeat testing after a negative assay.

Keywords: Epidermal growth factor receptor mutation; Metastasis; Mutation; Radiogenomics; Radiology.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • ALK protein, human
  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase