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J Thorac Oncol. 2011 Mar;6(3):459-65. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e318209edb9.

Correlation of IHC and FISH for ALK gene rearrangement in non-small cell lung carcinoma: IHC score algorithm for FISH.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.



Accurate, cost-effective methods for testing anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene rearrangement (ALK+) are needed to select patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma for ALK-inhibitor therapy. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) is used to detect ALK+, but it is expensive and not routinely available. We explored the potential of an immunohistochemistry (IHC) scoring system as an affordable, accessible approach.


One hundred one samples were obtained from an enriched cohort of never-smokers with adenocarcinoma from the Mayo Clinic Lung Cancer Cohort. IHC was performed using the ALK1 monoclonal antibody with ADVANCE detection system (Dako) and FISH with dual-color, break-apart probe (Abbott Molecular) on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue.


Cases were assessed as IHC score 0 (no staining; n = 69), 1+ (faint cytoplasmic staining, n = 21), 2+ (moderate, smooth cytoplasmic staining; n = 3), or 3+ (intense, granular cytoplasmic staining in ≥10% of tumor cells; n = 8). All IHC 3+ cases were FISH+, whereas 1 of 3 IHC 2+ and 1 of 21 IHC 1+ cases were FISH+. All 69 IHC 0 cases were FISH-. Considering FISH a gold-standard reference in this study, sensitivity and specificity of IHC were 90 and 97.8%, respectively, when 2+ and 3+ were regarded as IHC positive and 0 and 1+ as IHC negative.


IHC scoring correlates with FISH and may be a useful algorithm in testing ALK+ by FISH in non-small cell lung carcinoma, similar to human epidermal growth factor-2 testing in breast cancer. Further study is needed to validate this approach.

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