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Clin Cancer Res. 2011 May 15;17(10):3341-8. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-0063. Epub 2011 Mar 23.

Pulmonary inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor expressing a novel fusion, PPFIBP1-ALK: reappraisal of anti-ALK immunohistochemistry as a tool for novel ALK fusion identification.

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Pathology Project for Molecular Targets, Division of Pathology, Thoracic Center, Cancer Institute Hospital, Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research, Tokyo, Japan.



The anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitor crizotinib has been used in patients with lung cancer or inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor (IMT), both types harboring ALK fusions. However, detection of some ALK fusions is problematic with conventional anti-ALK immunohistochemistry because of their low expression. By using sensitive immunohistochemistry, therefore, we reassessed "ALK-negative" IMT cases defined with conventional immunohistochemistry (approximately 50% of all examined cases).


Two cases of ALK-negative IMT defined with conventional anti-ALK immunohistochemistry were further analyzed with sensitive immunohistochemistry [the intercalated antibody-enhanced polymer (iAEP) method].


The two "ALK-negative" IMTs were found positive for anti-ALK immunohistochemistry with the iAEP method. 5'-rapid amplification of cDNA ends identified a novel partner of ALK fusion, protein-tyrosine phosphatase, receptor-type, F polypeptide-interacting protein-binding protein 1 (PPFIBP1) in one case. The presence of PPFIBP1-ALK fusion was confirmed with reverse transcriptase PCR, genomic PCR, and FISH. We confirmed the transforming activities of PPFIBP1-ALK with a focus formation assay and an in vivo tumorigenicity assay by using 3T3 fibroblasts infected with a recombinant retrovirus encoding PPFIBP1-ALK. Surprisingly, the fusion was also detected by FISH in the other case.


Sensitive immunohistochemical methods such as iAEP will broaden the potential value of immunohistochemistry. The current ALK positivity rate in IMT should be reassessed with a more highly sensitive method such as iAEP to accurately identify those patients who might benefit from ALK-inhibitor therapies. Novel ALK fusions are being identified in various tumors in addition to IMT, and thus a reassessment of other "ALK-negative" cancers may be required in the forthcoming era of ALK-inhibitor therapy.

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