BACKGROUND: Anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase (ALK), ROS proto-oncogene 1, receptor tyrosine kinase (ROS1), and ret proto-oncogene (RET) fusions are present in 5%–7% of patients with advanced non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC); their accurate identification is critical to guide targeted therapies. FISH and immunohistochemistry (IHC) are considered the gold standards to determine gene fusions, but they have limitations. The nCounter platform is a potentially useful genomic tool for multiplexed detection of gene fusions, but has not been validated in the clinical setting.
METHODS: Formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded (FFPE) samples from 108 patients with advanced NSCLC were analyzed with an nCounter-based assay and the results compared with FISH, IHC, and reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR). Data on response to fusion kinase inhibitors was retrospectively collected in a subset of 29 patients.
RESULTS: Of 108 FFPE samples, 98 were successfully analyzed by nCounter (91%), which identified 55 fusion-positive cases (32 ALK, 21 ROS1, and 2 RET). nCounter results were highly concordant with IHC for ALK (98.5%, CI = 91.8–99.7), while 11 discrepancies were found compared with FISH (87.5% concordance, CI = 79.0–92.9). For ROS1, nCounter showed similar agreement with IHC and FISH (87.2% and 85.9%), but a substantial number of samples were positive only by 1 or 2 techniques. Of the 25 patients deriving clinical benefit from fusion kinase inhibitors, 24 were positive by nCounter and 22 by FISH.
CONCLUSIONS: nCounter compares favorably with IHC and FISH and can be used for identifying patients with advanced NSCLC positive for ALK/ROS1/RET fusion genes.
- Received for publication August 12, 2016.
- Accepted for publication October 13, 2016.
- © 2016 American Association for Clinical Chemistry