Background: Activated anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene fusions are recurrent events in a small fraction of colorectal cancers (CRCs), although these events have not yet been exploited as in other malignancies.
Methods: We detected ALK protein expression by immunohistochemistry and gene rearrangements by fluorescence in situ hybridisation in the ALKA-372-001 phase I study of the pan-Trk, ROS1, and ALK inhibitor entrectinib. One out of 487 CRCs showed ALK positivity with a peculiar pattern that prompted further characterisation by targeted sequencing using anchored multiplex PCR.
Results: A novel ALK fusion with the carbamoyl-phosphate synthetase 2, aspartate transcarbamylase, and dihydroorotase (CAD) gene (CAD-ALK fusion gene) was identified. It resulted from inversion within chromosome 2 and the fusion of exons 1–35 of CAD with exons 20–29 of ALK. After failure of previous standard therapies, treatment of this patient with the ALK inhibitor entrectinib resulted in a durable objective tumour response.
Conclusions: We describe the novel CAD-ALK rearrangement as an oncogene and provide the first evidence of its drugability as a new molecular target in CRC.