Defining molecular risk in ALK+ NSCLC
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Petros Christopoulos1,4, Jan Budczies2, Martina Kirchner2, Steffen Dietz3, Holger Sültmann3, Michael Thomas1,4,* and Albrecht Stenzinger2,*
1 Department of Thoracic Oncology, Thoraxklinik and National Center for Tumor Diseases at Heidelberg University Hospital, Baden Württemberg, Heidelberg, Germany
2 Institute of Pathology, Heidelberg University Hospital, Baden Württemberg, Heidelberg, Germany
3 Division of Cancer Genome Research, German Cancer Research Center and National Center for Tumor Diseases, Baden Württemberg, Heidelberg, Germany
4 Translational Lung Research Center Heidelberg, Member of the German Center for Lung Research, Baden Württemberg, Heidelberg, Germany
* These authors have contributed equally to this work
Petros Christopoulos, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Albrecht Stenzinger, email: email@example.com
Keywords: ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer; EML4-ALK fusion variant; TP53 mutation; treatment resistance; overall survival
Received: February 28, 2019 Accepted: April 08, 2019 Published: May 03, 2019
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLC) have the best prognosis among metastatic pulmonary malignancies, with a median patient survival currently exceeding 5 years. While this is definitely a major therapeutic success for thoracic oncology, it may not be entirely attributable to rapid drug development and the strenuous clinical efforts. At the genetic level, ALK+ disease is also unique, distinguished by the lowest tumor mutational burden (mean below 3 mutations/Mbp), the lowest frequency of TP53 mutations (20–25%) and very few other co-mutations compared to other NSCLC. The relative simplicity and stability of the genetic landscape not only contribute to the relatively favourable clinical course, but also make study of the effects from individual molecular features easier. EML4-ALK fusion variant 3 (E6;A20) and TP53 mutations were recently identified as main molecular determinants of adverse outcome: they occur in about 30–40% and 20–25% of newly-diagnosed cases, respectively, have possibly synergistic effects and are independently associated with more aggressive disease, shorter progression-free survival under treatment with ALK inhibitors and worse overall survival. Secondary detection of TP53 mutations at disease progression in previously negative patients defines another subset (about 20%) with similarly poor outcome, while detection of ALK resistance mutations guides next-line therapy. As our biological understanding deepens, additional molecular risk factors will be identified and refine our concepts further. The translation of clinical risk at the molecular level and the ability to predict early events are of key importance for individualized patient management and preclinical modeling in order to advance therapeutic options.
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