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Study: Redefining the Criteria for ALK Positive Lung Cancer
Date:9/10/2013

Aurora, Colo. (PRWEB) September 10, 2013

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published today in the journal Cancer shows that the current criteria used to match lung cancers with the drug crizotinib may miss some patients who could benefit from the drug. The findings suggest that doctors should look closer at borderline or atypical ALK-negative cases, and could widen the population of lung cancer patients offered treatment with crizotinib or other ALK-inhibitor drugs.

ALK stands for anaplastic lymphoma kinase, a gene that is turned off in most adult tissues in the body, but which can be re-activated to cause cancer when it is fused with another nearby gene. The original and still most widely-used test for ALK-positive lung cancer was co-developed by Leila Garcia, PhD, director of the Cytogenetics Core Resource at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. The test uses the technique known as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to test for the fusion of the ALK gene with another gene that turns ALK back on, allowing it to drive some lung cancers. When a cancer is ALK positive it can be very effectively treated with crizotinib, a targeted anti-ALK drug.

"The test is fairly definitive – either a cell is ALK positive or not using the criteria we initially implemented. However, what is less certain is the exact percentage of ALK-positive cells required to label an entire tumor as ALK-positive. Is there an exact threshold of ALK-positive cells that will make a patient respond to crizotinib or other ALK inhibitors?" Garcia says.

“Since the beginning we have looked at the cells in a tumor and if 15 percent or more of these cells show the changes classically associated with an ALK rearrangement, we classify that tumor as ALK-positive and offer treatment with crizotinib," says Ross Camidge, MD, PhD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and director of the thoracic oncology clinical pro
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