Therapeutic strategies and mechanisms of drug resistance in anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-rearranged lung cancer

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Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene encoding the receptor tyrosine kinase ALK is expressed as a fusion gene in a variety of carcinomas. The expression of ALK is nearly undetectable in adults, and its activation is normally regulated by its ligands, FAM150A/B. However, ALK gene rearrangements result in constitutive ALK fusion proteins expression via the active promoter of fusion partner genes. ALK fusion proteins dimerize in a ligand-independent manner and lead to the dysregulation of cell proliferation via abnormal constitutive activation of ALK tyrosine kinase. Many ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have been developed to date, three of which are currently in clinical use for the treatment of ALK-rearranged non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). ALK TKIs often achieve marked tumor regression in NSCLC patients with ALK rearrangements; however, ALK TKI-resistant tumors inevitably emerge within a few years in most cases. In this review, we summarize diverse ALK TKI resistance mechanisms identified in NSCLC with ALK rearrangements, and review potential therapeutic strategies to overcome ALK TKI resistance in these patients.

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