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Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Oct 15;16(20):4938-45. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-10-0099. Epub 2010 Oct 5.

EML4-ALK fusion gene assessment using metastatic lymph node samples obtained by endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration.

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  • 1Division of Thoracic Diseases, Chiba Cancer Center, Chiba, Japan.



Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) fusion genes represent novel oncogenes for non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). Several ALK inhibitors have been developed, and are now being evaluated in ALK-positive NSCLC. The feasibility of detecting ALK fusion genes in samples obtained by endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA) was determined. The clinicopathologic characteristics of ALK-positive lung cancer were also analyzed.


From April 2008 to July 2009, NSCLC cases with hilar/mediastinal lymph node metastases detected by EBUS-TBNA were enrolled. Positive expression of ALK fusion protein was determined using immunohistochemistry, and ALK gene rearrangements were further examined to verify the translocation between ALK and partner genes using fluorescent in situ hybridization and reverse transcription-PCR. Direct sequencing of PCR products was performed to identify ALK fusion variants.


One hundred and nine cases were eligible for the analysis using re-sliced samples. Screening of these specimens with immunohistochemistry revealed ALK positivity in seven cases (6.4%), all of which possessed echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4-ALK fusion genes as detected by fluorescent in situ hybridization and reverse transcription-PCR. All ALK-positive cases had an adenocarcinoma histology and possessed no EGFR mutations. Compared with ALK-negative cases, ALK-positive cases were more likely to have smaller primary tumors (P < 0.05), to occur at a younger age (<60 years; P < 0.05), and to occur in never/light smokers (smoking index < 400; P < 0.01). Mucin production was frequently observed in ALK-positive adenocarcinomas (29.4%; P < 0.01).


EBUS-TBNA is a practical and feasible method for obtaining tissue from mediastinal and hilar lymph nodes that can be subjected to multimodal analysis of ALK fusion genes in NSCLC.

©2010 AACR.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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