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J Thorac Oncol. 2012 Jan;7(1):98-104. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e3182370e30.

EML4-ALK translocation predicts better outcome in lung adenocarcinoma patients with wild-type EGFR.

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Department of Internal Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital Yun-Lin Branch, Yun-Lin, Taiwan.



The echinoderm microtubule-associated protein like 4-anaplastic lymphoma kinase (EML4-ALK) fusion represents a novel target in a subset of non-small cell lung cancer, especially adenocarcinoma. EML4-ALK fusion is mutually exclusive with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations. To understand the impact of EML4-ALK on the prognosis of non-small cell lung cancer, we examined EML4-ALK fusion in lung adenocarcinoma from patients with wild-type EGFR and analyzed their clinical treatment outcomes.


Lung adenocarcinoma patients with malignant pleural effusions having wild-type EGFR and measurable target lesions were enrolled for EML4-ALK analysis by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and direct sequencing. Demographic data, EML4-ALK status, and survival data were analyzed. We also performed fluorescence in situ hybridization on some available tumor samples to validate the PCR result. In addition, K-ras mutation was analyzed for patients without EML4-ALK fusion genes.


A total of 116 patients with wild-type EGFR sequencing results had complete clinical data for analysis. No patients received ALK inhibitor therapy. There were 39 patients (34%) with the EML4-ALK fusion gene. The concordance rate between reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and fluorescence in situ hybridization was 85%. The K-ras mutation rate for patients without EML4-ALK fusion gene was 6.5%. By multivariate analysis, patients who had better performance status (p < 0.001) and EML4-ALK translocation (p = 0.017) had longer overall survival. Comparing patients with tumors harboring variant 1 with those harboring nonvariant 1 EML4-ALK fusion genes, there were no significant differences in clinical factors and survival outcome.


For lung adenocarcinoma patients with wild-type EGFR, EML4-ALK translocation is associated with longer overall survival.

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