The EML4-ALK fusion gene has been recently identified in a small subset of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients who respond positively to ALK inhibitors. The characteristics of the EML4-ALK fusion gene in Chinese patients with NSCLC are poorly understood. Here, we report on the prevalence of EML4-ALK, EGFR status and KRAS mutations in 208 Chinese patients with NSCLC. EGFR mutations were found in 24.5% (51/208) of patients. In concordance with previous reports, these mutations were identified at high frequencies in females (47.5% vs 15.0% in males; P<0.05); never-smokers (42.3% vs 13.9% in smokers; P<0.05), and adenocarcinoma patients (44.2% vs 8.0% in non-adenocarcinoma patients; P<0.05). There were only 2.88% (6/208) patients with KRAS mutations in our study group. We identified 7 patients who harbored the EML4-ALK fusion gene (3.37%, 7/208), including 4 cases with variant 3 (57.1%), 2 with variant 1, and 1 with variant 2. All positive cases corresponded to female patients (11.5%, 7/61). Six of the positive cases were non-smokers (7.69%, 6/78). The incidence of EML4-ALK translocation in female, non-smoking adenocarcinoma patients was as high as 15.2% (5/33). No EGFR/KRAS mutations were detected among the EML4-ALK positive patients. Pathological analysis showed no difference between solid signet-ring cell pattern (4/7) and mucinous cribriform pattern (3/7) in ALK-positive patients. Immunostaining showed intratumor heterogeneity of ALK rearrangement in primary carcinomas and 50% (3/6) of metastatic tumors with ALK-negative staining. Meta-analysis demonstrated that EML4-ALK translocation occurred in 4.84% (125/2580) of unselected patients with NSCLC, and was also predominant in non-smoking patients with adenocarcinoma. Taken together, EML4-ALK translocations were infrequent in the entire NSCLC patient population, but were frequent in the NSCLC subgroup of female, non-smoker, adenocarcinoma patients. There was intratumor heterogeneity of ALK rearrangement in primary carcinomas and at metastatic sites.
Li, Y., Li, Y., Yang, T., Wei, S., Wang, J., Wang, M., … Chen, J. (2013). Clinical Significance of EML4-ALK Fusion Gene and Association with EGFR and KRAS Gene Mutations in 208 Chinese Patients with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. PLoS ONE, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0052093