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: In the past several years we have observed a significant increase in our understanding of molecular mechanisms that drive lung cancer. Specifically in the non-small cell lung cancer sub-types, ALK gene rearrangements represent a sub-group of tumors that are targetable by the tyrosine kinase inhibitor Crizotinib, resulting in significant reductions in tumor burden. Phase II and III clinical trials were performed using an ALK break-apart FISH probe kit, making FISH the gold standard for identifying ALK rearrangements in patients. FISH is often considered a labor and cost intensive molecular technique, and in this study we aimed to demonstrate feasibility for automation of ALK FISH testing, to improve laboratory workflow and ease of testing. This involved automation of the pre-treatment steps of the ALK assay using various protocols on the VP 2000 instrument, and facilitating automated scanning of the fluorescent FISH specimens for simplified enumeration on various backend scanning and analysis systems. The results indicated that ALK FISH can be automated. Significantly, both the Ikoniscope and BioView system of automated FISH scanning and analysis systems provided a robust analysis algorithm to define ALK rearrangements. In addition, the BioView system facilitated consultation of difficult cases via the internet. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
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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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