NTRK Fusions, from the Diagnostic Algorithm to Innovative Treatment in the Era of Precision Medicine

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 May 25;21(10):3718. doi: 10.3390/ijms21103718.


In the era of precision medicine, the identification of several predictive biomarkers and the development of innovative therapies have dramatically increased the request of tests to identify specific targets on cytological or histological samples, revolutionizing the management of the tumoral biomaterials. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a selective neurotrophic tyrosine receptor kinase (NTRK) inhibitor, larotrectinib. Contemporarily, the development of multi-kinase inhibitors with activity in tumors carrying TRK fusions is ongoing. Chromosomal translocations involving the NTRK1, NTRK2, and NTRK3 genes result in constitutive activation and aberrant expression of TRK kinases in numerous cancer types. In this context, the identification of tumors harboring TRK fusions is crucial. Several methods of detection are currently available. We revise the advantages and disadvantages of different techniques used for identifying TRK alterations, including immunohistochemistry, fluorescence in situ hybridization, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, and next generation sequencing-based approaches. Finally, we propose a diagnostic algorithm based on histology and the relative frequency of TRK fusions in each specific tumor, considering also the economic feasibility in the clinical practice.

Keywords: ETV6-NTRK3; FISH; NGS; NTRK1; NTRK2; NTRK3; Pan-TRK IHC; neurotrophic tyrosine receptor kinase (NTRK) fusions; tumor biobanks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Oncogene Fusion*
  • Precision Medicine / methods*
  • Receptor Tyrosine Kinase-like Orphan Receptors / genetics*


  • Receptor Tyrosine Kinase-like Orphan Receptors