Two case reports: EML4-ALK rearrangement large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma and literature review

Front Oncol. 2023 Nov 1:13:1227980. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2023.1227980. eCollection 2023.


Anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene (ALK) rearrangement is present in only approximately 5% of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) and is scarce in LCNEC patients. The conventional first-line treatment options are chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy or chemotherapy followed by palliative radiotherapy. In this report, we present two cases of metastatic LCNEC with EML4-ALK fusion that were treated with ALK-TKI inhibitors and demonstrated a rapid therapeutic response. Both patients were nonsmoking women who declined cytotoxic chemotherapy, underwent Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS), and confirmed EML4-ALK fusion. They were treated with alectinib as first-line therapy, and the tumors showed significant shrinkage after two months, achieving a PR (defined as a more than 30% decrease in the sum of maximal dimensions). The PFS was 22 months and 32 months, respectively, until the last follow-up. A systematic review of all previously reported cases of LCNEC with ALK mutations identified only 21 cases. These cases were characterized by being female (71.4%), nonsmoking (85.7%), diagnosed at a relatively young age (median age 51.1), and stage IV (89.5%), with an overall response rate (ORR) of 90.5%. PFS and OS were significantly longer than those treated with conventional chemotherapy/immunotherapy. Based on the clinical characteristics and the effective therapeutic outcomes with ALK inhibitors in LCNEC patients with ALK fusion, we recommend routine ALK IHC (economical, affordable, and convenient, but with higher false positives) as a screening method in advanced LCNEC patients, particularly nonsmoking females or those who are not candidates for or unwilling to undergo cytotoxic chemotherapy. Further molecular profiling is necessary to confirm these potential beneficiaries. We suggest TKI inhibitors as the first-line treatment for metastatic LCNEC with ALK fusion. Additional studies on larger cohorts are required to assess the prevalence of ALK gene fusions and their sensitivity to various ALK inhibitors.

Keywords: ALK-TKI inhibitor; EML4-ALK rearrangement; alectinib; immunohistochemistry; large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

Grants and funding

This study was funded by the Tianjin Key Medical Discipline Construction Project (TJYXZDXK-049A), the Tianjin Health Science and Technology Project (to Qin Chen, No. TJWJ2022QN066, and to Qiang Chen, No. TJWJ2023QN063).