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J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2011 Dec;9(12):1335-41.

Crizotinib and testing for ALK.

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  • 1Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, MA, USA.


Crizotinib was recently approved by the US FDA for the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) harboring the ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) gene rearrangement. To ensure identification of patients most likely to benefit, the FDA approved crizotinib concurrently with a companion diagnostic test-the Vysis ALK Break Apart FISH Probe Kit. This kit was used in 1 of the 2 pivotal trials leading to the FDA approval of crizotinib and has become the gold standard for detecting ALK rearrangement in NSCLC. Although ALK FISH is clinically validated, the assay can be technically challenging and costly. Therefore, other diagnostic modalities are being explored, including immunohistochemistry (IHC) and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. This article provides an overview of the diagnostic assays available for detecting ALK rearrangement. Each assay, including ALK FISH, has its strengths and weaknesses. Recent work with commercially available ALK antibodies suggests that IHC-based tests may represent a reliable and cost-effective screening strategy; however, large multicenter studies comparing IHC with FISH are needed to validate ALK IHC. While ALK FISH remains the current standard for diagnosing ALK positivity, large-scale screening of patients with newly diagnosed advanced NSCLC, as recommended by NCCN, may require development and validation of alternative screening strategies, such as combination IHC and FISH.

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