Molecular Characterization and Therapeutic Targeting of Colorectal Cancers Harboring Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Fusions

Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Mar 15;27(6):1695-1705. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-4073. Epub 2021 Jan 7.


Purpose: Receptor tyrosine kinase fusions in colorectal cancers are rare, but potentially therapeutically relevant. We describe clinical, molecular, and pathologic attributes of RTK fusion-associated colorectal cancer.

Experimental design: We identified all cases with RTK fusions in patients with colorectal cancer seen at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, MA) who underwent OncoPanel testing between 2013 and 2018. Clinical, histologic, and molecular features were extracted from the patient charts and molecular testing results.

Results: We identified 12 driver oncogenic fusions in various RTKs. These fusions occurred exclusively in BRAF and RAS wild-type tumors and were enriched in right-sided and mismatch repair-deficient (MMR-D) colorectal cancers. All of the MMR-D colorectal cancers with RTK fusions were found in tumors with acquired MMR-D due to MLH1 promoter hypermethylation and one was associated with a sessile serrated polyp. Molecular profiles of MMR-D colorectal cancer with RTK fusions largely resembled BRAF V600E-mutated MMR-D colorectal cancer, rather than those secondary to Lynch syndrome. We describe two patients with fusion-associated microsatellite stable (MSS) colorectal cancer who derived clinical benefit from therapeutic targeting of their translocation. The first harbored an ALK-CAD fusion and received sequential crizotinib and alectinib therapy for a total of 7.5 months until developing an ALK L1196Q gatekeeper mutation. The second patient, whose tumor contained an ROS1-GOPC fusion, continues to benefit from entrectinib after 9 months of therapy.

Conclusions: RTK fusions in colorectal cancer are a rare, but important disease subgroup that occurs in RAS and BRAF wild-type tumors. Despite enrichment in acquired MMR-D tumors, RTK fusions also occur in MSS colorectal cancer and provide an important therapeutic target.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural