Chun-wei Xu and Wen-xian Wang contributed equally to this work
ALK rearrangement-advanced NSCLC patients respond to crizotinib. ALK rearrangement is currently determined with RT-PCR. VENTANA IHC is a standard method to identify ALK protein overexpression in NSCLC; however, VENTANA IHC has rarely been used to determine the response to crizotinib in Chinese patients with NSCLC and ALK overexpression. To better clarify the clinical implication of VENTANA IHC to detect ALK rearrangements, we conducted this study to analyze VENTANA IHC and RT-PCR in a large cohort of Chinese patients with NSCLC undergoing screening for ALK rearrangements.
A total of 1720 patients with NSCLC who had ALK rearrangements detected by VENTANA IHC and/or RT-PCR were included in this analysis. We compared the efficacy and survival of ALK-positive patients detected by VENTANA IHC and RT-PCR. We used NGS to identify patients in whom the two methods were inconsistent.
Among 1720 patients, 187 (10.87%) were shown to be ALK-positive by VENTANA IHC and/or RT-PCR, and 66 received crizotinib treatment. We identified 10.27% (172/1674) of patients as ALK-positive by the VENTANA IHC method, and 12.73% (41/322) of patients had ALK rearrangements by the RT-PCR method. Twenty-nine of 276 (10.51%) ALK-positive patients were simultaneously analyzed using VENTANA IHC and RT-PCR. The overall response rates were 65.90% (29/44) by VENTANA IHC and 55.88% (19/34) by RT-PCR. The disease control rates were 86.36% (38/44) by VENTANA IHC and 76.47% (26/34) by RT-PCR. In contrast, the median progression-free survival for VENTANA IHC and RT-PCR was 8.5 and 9.2 months, respectively. The VENTANA IHC and RT-PCR results obtained for 6 of 17 ALK-positive patients were inconsistent based on NGS; specifically, 4 patients had EML4-ALK fusions, 2 patients had non EML4-ALK fusions, 1 patient had a KCL1-ALK fusion, and one patient had a FBXO36-ALK fusion.
VENTANA IHC is a reliable and rapid screening tool used in routine pathologic laboratories for the identification of suitable candidates for ALK-targeted therapy. VENTANA IHC has moderate sensitivity and a slightly higher association with response to therapy with ALK inhibitors, and some VENTANA IHC-positive, but RT-PCR-negative cases may benefit from crizotinib.