Background: Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) fusions need to be accurately and efficiently detected for ALK inhibitor therapy. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) remains the reference test. Although increasing data are supporting that ALK immunohistochemistry (IHC) is highly concordant with FISH, IHC screening needed to be clinically and prospectively validated. Patients and methods: In the AF-001JP trial for alectinib, 436 patients were screened for ALK fusions through IHC (n = 384) confirmed with FISH (n = 181), multiplex RT-PCR (n = 68), or both (n = 16). IHC results were scored with iScore. Result: ALK fusion was positive in 137 patients and negative in 250 patients. Since the presence of cancer cells in the samples for RT-PCR was not confirmed, ALK fusion negativity could not be ascertained in 49 patients. IHC interpreted with iScore showed a 99.4% (173/174) concordance with FISH. All 41 patients who had iScore 3 and were enrolled in phase II showed at least 30% tumor reduction with 92.7% overall response rate. Two IHC-positive patients with an atypical FISH pattern responded to ALK inhibitor therapy. The reduction rate was not correlated with IHC staining intensity. Conclusions: Our study showed (i) that when sufficiently sensitive and appropriately interpreted, IHC can be a standalone diagnostic for ALK inhibitor therapies; (ii) that when atypical FISH patterns are accompanied by IHC positivity, the patients should be considered as candidates for ALK inhibitor therapies, and (iii) that the expression level of ALK fusion is not related to the level of response to ALK inhibitors and is thus not required for patient selection. Registration number: JapicCTI-101264 (This study is registered with the Japan Pharmaceutical Information Center).
- Companion diagnostics
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