ALK-positive lung cancer is a subtype of lung cancer which carries a genetic change in a gene called ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase). About 5% of lung cancers are ALK-positive. These ALK-positive lung cancers carry a genetic change which results in an abnormal ALK protein that tells the cancer to grow.
There are now many drugs that target and block the abnormal ALK protein and inhibit the growth of the cancer. These targeted therapies have provided great benefit to people with ALK-positive lung cancer. However, after some time, just as bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, ALK-positive lung cancers evolve ways to evade the therapies so the drugs lose their effectiveness. Recently, it has been found that ALK-positive lung cancer cells can evade the drugs by developing new mutations in the ALK gene. These new mutations can potentially be treated with a different drug targeting these specific ALK mutations.
We are now able to detect the presence of genetic mutations in lung cancer by analyzing a patient’s blood for bits of material shed by tumor. This approach is often called a liquid biopsy. Recently, researchers have shown that looking at tumor molecules in blood can provide doctors with some of the same information that tissue biopsies provide. For example, liquid biopsies can be used to detect gene mutations that cause drug resistance.
This research study is for lung cancer patients with ALK-positive lung cancer who had been on a newer ALK targeted treatment (such as ceritinib, alectinib, brigatinib, or lorlatinib) to determine whether they have developed ALK resistance mutations.
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