Targeted therapies in non-small cell lung cancer: a focus on ALK/ROS1 tyrosine kinase inhibitors

Assunta Sgambato, Francesca Casaluce, Paolo Maione, Cesare Gridelli
Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy 2018, 18 (1): 71-80
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) and ROS1 rearrangements define important molecular subgroups of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The identification of these genetic driver alterations created new potential for highly active therapeutic interventions. After discovery of ALK rearrangements in NSCLC, it was recognized that these confer sensitivity to ALK inhibition. Areas covered: Crizotinib, the first-in-class ALK/ROS1/MET inhibitor, was initially approved as second-line treatment of ALK-positive advanced NSCLC but after this, it was firmly established as the standard first-line therapy for advanced ALK-positive NSCLC. After initial response to crizotinib, tumors inevitably relapse. Next-generation ALK inhibitors, more potent and brain-penetrable than crizotinib, may be effective in re-inducing remissions when cancers are still addicted to ALK. Ceritinib and alectinib are approved for metastatic ALK positive NSCLC patients, while brigatinib received granted accelerated approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Regarding ROS1 rearrangement, to date crizotinib is the only ALK-tyrosine kinase inhibitor receiving indication as treatment of ROS1 positive advanced NSCLC. Expert commentary: Although novel ALK-inhibitors are under clinical investigation compared to crizotinib as front-line treatment for ALK-positive NSCLC, nowadays the current standard first-line therapy for these patients is crizotinib. Further research will clarify the best management of ALK-positive NSCLC, above all who progress on first-line crizotinib.

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