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Validation of a new algorithm for a quick and easy RT-PCR-based ALK test in a large series of lung adenocarcinomas: Comparison with FISH, immunohistochemistry and next generation sequencing tests.

Objectives: Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) gene rearrangements have been described in 3–5% of lung adenocarcinomas (ADC) and their identification is essential to select patients for treatment with ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors. For several years, fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) has been considered as the only validated diagnostic test. Currently, alternative methods are commercially available as diagnostic tests.

Material and Methods: A series of 217 ADC comprising 196 consecutive resected tumors and 21 ALK FISH-positive cases from an independent series of 702 ADC were investigated. All specimens were screened by IHC (ALK-D5F3-CDx-Ventana), FISH (Vysis ALK Break-Apart-Abbott) and RT-PCR (ALK RGQ RT-PCR-Qiagen). Results were compared and discordant cases subjected to Next Generation Sequencing.

Results: Thirty-nine of 217 samples were positive by the ALK RGQ RT-PCR test, using a threshold cycle (Ct) cut-off ?35.9, as recommended. Of these positive samples, 14 were negative by IHC and 12 by FISH. ALK RGQ RT-PCR/FISH discordant cases were analyzed by the NGS test with results concordant with FISH data. In order to obtain the maximum level of agreement between FISH and ALK RGQ RT-PCR data, we introduced a new scoring algorithm based on the ?Ct value. A ?Ct cut-off level ?3.5 was used in a pilot series. Then the algorithm was tested on a completely independent validation series. By using the new scoring algorithm and FISH as reference standard, the sensitivity and the specificity of the ALK RGQ RT-PCR(?Ct) test were 100% and 100%, respectively.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that the ALK RGQ RT-PCR test could be useful in clinical practice as a complementary test in multi-test diagnostic algorithms or even, if our data will be confirmed in independent studies, as a standalone or screening test for the selection of patients to be treated with ALK inhibitors.

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