JOURNAL ARTICLE

Therapeutic strategies to overcome crizotinib resistance in non-small cell lung cancers harboring the fusion oncogene EML4-ALK

Ryohei Katayama, Tahsin M Khan, Cyril Benes, Eugene Lifshits, Hiromichi Ebi, Victor M Rivera, William C Shakespeare, A John Iafrate, Jeffrey A Engelman, Alice T Shaw
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2011 May 3, 108 (18): 7535-40
21502504
The echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4 (EML4)-anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) fusion oncogene represents a molecular target in a small subset of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs). This fusion leads to constitutive ALK activation with potent transforming activity. In a pivotal phase 1 clinical trial, the ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) crizotinib (PF-02341066) demonstrated impressive antitumor activity in the majority of patients with NSCLC harboring ALK fusions. However, despite these remarkable initial responses, cancers eventually develop resistance to crizotinib, usually within 1 y, thereby limiting the potential clinical benefit. To determine how cancers acquire resistance to ALK inhibitors, we established a model of acquired resistance to crizotinib by exposing a highly sensitive EML4-ALK-positive NSCLC cell line to increasing doses of crizotinib until resistance emerged. We found that cells resistant to intermediate doses of crizotinib developed amplification of the EML4-ALK gene. Cells resistant to higher doses (1 μM) also developed a gatekeeper mutation, L1196M, within the kinase domain, rendering EML4-ALK insensitive to crizotinib. This gatekeeper mutation was readily detected using a unique and highly sensitive allele-specific PCR assay. Although crizotinib was ineffectual against EML4-ALK harboring the gatekeeper mutation, we observed that two structurally different ALK inhibitors, NVP-TAE684 and AP26113, were highly active against the resistant cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, these resistant cells remained highly sensitive to the Hsp90 inhibitor 17-AAG. Thus, we have developed a model of acquired resistance to ALK inhibitors and have shown that second-generation ALK TKIs or Hsp90 inhibitors are effective in treating crizotinib-resistant tumors harboring secondary gatekeeper mutations.

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