ALK Inhibitor Has Dramatic Results In Lung Cancer Patients
About one in 20 lung cancer patients has a previously unsuspected molecular change in their tumor that is driving their cancer: a breakpoint in the tumor's chromosomes called an ALK fusion protein. This molecular change has now been matched to a new oral drug called an ALK inhibitor, which is having dramatic results in the patients who have taken it in clinical trials so far.
Dr. Ross Camidge, assistant professor of medical oncology at UC Denver and clinical director of the UCCC Lung Cancer Program, was PI of the clinical trial. Dr. Marileila Varella-Garcia, professor of medical onocology at UC Denver, UCCC associate director for education and leader of the Cytogenetics Core, developed the FISH assay to test for the gene alteration.
“Less than 30 people in the world with this type of lung cancer have been treated so far with this drug, but almost all of them have had dramatic responses," Dr. Camidge says. "Our first patient here in Colorado who tested positive for the ALK fusion protein has no evidence of lung cancer after just six weeks of treatment. She had been diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer nine years ago."
Dr. Camidge says he has two more patients who will go on the trial in the next month or so, with new ALK positive patients being identified every few weeks.
"Now we have a subset of patients that didn't have any hope with other medications and they are dramatically responding to this new drug," Dr. Varella-Garcia says.
The University of Colorado Cancer Center is one of only seven centers worldwide, and one of only five in the United States that are participating in the clinical trial.
"Everyone with lung cancer in Colorado should get a second opinion from one of the five expert medical oncologists in the UCCC lung cancer program as soon as possible after they are diagnosed to have their cancer considered for screening with the definitive test for the ALK protein, and see if they are candidates for treatment with this drug," Dr. Camidge says.