OBJECTIVE: Metastasized non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with an anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearrangement is usually sensitive to a range of ALK-tyrosine kinase inhibitors. ALK-positive NSCLC have been identified in pivotal phase III trials with fluorescence in situ hybridization (ALK FISH+). These tumors are also expressing the fusion product (ALK immunohistochemistry (IHC)+). However, discrepant cases occur, including ALK IHC + FISH-. The aim of this study was to collect ALK IHC + cases and compare within this group response to crizotinib treatment of ALK FISH + cases with ALK FISH- cases.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: In this European prospective multicenter research study patients with Stage IV ALK IHC + NSCLC treated with crizotinib were enrolled. Tumor slides were validated centrally for ALK IHC and ALK FISH.
RESULTS: Registration of 3523 ALK IHC tests revealed a prevalence of 2.7% (n = 94) ALK IHC + cases. Local ALK FISH analysis resulted in 48 concordant (ALK IHC+/FISH+) and 16 discordant (ALK IHC+/FISH-) cases. Central validation revealed 37 concordant and 7 discordant cases, 5 of which had follow-up. Validation was hampered by limited amount of tissue in biopsy samples. The PFS at 1 year for ALK concordant and discordant was 58% and 20%, respectively (HR = 2.4; 95% CI: 0.78-7.3; p = 0.11). Overall survival was significantly better for concordant cases than discordant cases after central validation (HR=4.5; 95% CI= 1.2-15.9; p=0.010.
CONCLUSION: ALK IHC + FISH- NSCLC is infrequent and associated with a worse outcome on personalized treatment. A suitable predictive testing strategy may be to screen first with IHC and then confirm with FISH instead of considering ALK IHC equivalent to ALK FISH according to the current guidelines.