Detection of Rearrangements and Transcriptional Up-Regulation of ALK in FFPE Lung Cancer Specimens Using a Novel, Sensitive, Quantitative Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction Assay

Journal of thoracic oncology: official publication of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (Impact Factor: 5.28). 02/2014; 9(3). DOI: 10.1097/JTO.0000000000000068
Source: PubMed


The approved dual-color fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) test for the detection of anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase (ALK) gene rearrangements in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is complex and represents a low-throughput assay difficult to use in daily diagnostic practice. We devised a sensitive and robust routine diagnostic test for the detection of rearrangements and transcriptional up-regulation of ALK.
We developed a quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) assay adapted to RNA isolated from routine formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded material and applied it to 652 NSCLC specimens. The reliability of this technique to detect ALK dysregulation was shown by comparison with FISH and immunohistochemistry.
qRT-PCR analysis detected unbalanced ALK expression indicative of a gene rearrangement in 24 (4.6%) and full-length ALK transcript expression in six (1.1%) of 523 interpretable tumors. Among 182 tumors simultaneously analyzed by FISH and qRT-PCR, the latter accurately typed 97% of 19 rearranged and 158 nonrearranged tumors and identified ALK deregulation in two cases with insufficient FISH. Six tumors expressing full-length ALK transcripts did not show rearrangements of the gene. Immunohistochemistry detected ALK protein overexpression in tumors with gene fusions and transcriptional up-regulation, but did not distinguish between the two. One case with full-length ALK expression carried a heterozygous point mutation (S1220Y) within the kinase domain potentially interfering with kinase activity and/or inhibitor binding.
Our qRT-PCR assay reliably identifies and distinguishes ALK rearrangements and full-length transcript expression in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded material. It is an easy-to-perform, cost-effective, and high-throughput tool for the diagnosis of ALK activation. The expression of full-length ALK transcripts may be relevant for ALK inhibitor therapy in NSCLC.

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    • "The Vysis ALK Break Apart FISH Probe Kit was utilized to identify ALK rearrangements in NSCLC patients in Phase II and III crizotinib trials, and was co-approved by the FDA as the companion diagnostic for crizotinib therapy selection. While other assay technologies are investigated, including ; real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) (Soda et al., 2012; Gruber et al., 2014), immunohistochemistry (IHC) (Zwaenepoel et al., 2014; Cabillic et al., 2014; Laffert et al., 2013), and nextgeneration DNA sequencing (NGS) (Wu et al., 2013; Abel et al., 2014), "
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    ABSTRACT: Detection of ALK rearrangements in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) presents a significant technical challenge due to existence of multiple translocations partners and break-points. To improve the performance of PCR-based tests, we utilized the combination of 2 assays, i.e. the variant-specific PCR for the 5 most common ALK rearrangements and the test for unbalanced 5'/3'-end ALK expression. Overall, convincing evidence for the presence of ALK translocation was obtained for 34/400 (8.5%) cases, including 14 EML4ex13/ALKex20, 12 EML4ex6/ALKex20, 3 EML4ex18/ALKex20, 2 EML4ex20/ALKex20 variants and 3 tumors with novel translocation partners. 386 (96.5%) out of 400 EGFR mutation-negative NSCLCs were concordant for both tests, being either positive (n = 26) or negative (n = 360) for ALK translocation; 49 of these samples (6 ALK+, 43 ALK-) were further evaluated by FISH, and there were no instances of disagreement. Among the 14 (3.5%) "discordant" tumors, 5 demonstrated ALK translocation by the first but not by the second PCR assay, and 9 had unbalanced ALK expression in the absence of known ALK fusion variants. 5 samples from the latter group were subjected to FISH, and the presence of translocation was confirmed in 2 cases. Next generation sequencing analysis of these 2 samples identified novel translocation partners, DCTN1 and SQSTM1; furthermore, the DCTN1/ALK fusion was also found in another NSCLC sample with unbalanced 5'/3'-end ALK expression, indicating a recurrent nature of this translocation. We conclude that the combination of 2 different PCR tests is a viable approach for the diagnostics of ALK rearrangements. Systematic typing of ALK fusions is likely to reveal new NSCLC-specific ALK partners. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
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