Pfizer Researchers Develop New Test for ALK

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(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – A group of researchers from Pfizer Inc., New York, NY, say that they have developed a new test to detect EML4-ALK gene fusions, according to a poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Chicago on April 3. The poster, which was entitled “Multiplexed, digital gene expression and fusion transcript analysis to screen for EML4-ALK positive lung cancer,” was presented as abstract No. 4553 by the lead author: Maruja E. Lira of Pfizer, Inc.   

With EML4-ALK fusions occurring in approximately 5% of non-small cell lung carcinoma and defining a subpopulation of these patients that is highly responsive to ALK kinase inhibitors, there is a need for an ALK screening test that is not labor-intensive or costly, and is better suited to screening large numbers of patient samples.

The researchers developed a methodology capable of detecting EML4-ALK fusions by direct transcript profiling from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue sections by hybridizing patient RNA to a biotinylated capture probe and a color-coded reporter probe designed to hybridize to sequences spanning EML4-ALK junction. Comparisons were made to the current methodologies: fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and immunohistochemistry (IHC).

“The assay is highly reproducible and sensitive, detecting ALK-fusion transcripts even in samples with low tumor content,” wrote the authors, who concluded that “the assay is inexpensive, easy to perform, high throughput and compatible with FFPE tissue samples. This is a promising technology highly suitable for screening large numbers of tumor samples without the need for cDNA synthesis and PCR amplification.”


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