ALK Positive Lung Cancer
What is ALK positive lung cancer?
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) positive lung cancer is a form of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that occurs when the ALK gene is mutated. It most commonly impacts those who don’t smoke at all and people under the age of 55.
What are the symptoms of ALK positive lung cancer?
Symptoms often do not appear until the cancer has progressed. When they do arise, they include:
- Chronic cough
- Bloody sputum
- Chest pain
- Hoarse voice
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Shortness of breath
What causes ALK positive lung cancer?
In 3%-5% of NSCLC patients, there is an acquired mutation in the ALK gene, and it is fused with the EML4 gene. When this occurs, enzymes within the cells begin to signal mutated cancer cells to rapidly divide and multiply, therefore spreading the cancer.
There are a number of risk factors that heighten one’s risk of developing this cancer. These include being under the age of 55, being of East Asian descent, being female, exposure to certain environmental carcinogens, and smoking very little or not at all.
How is ALK positive lung cancer diagnosed?
Doctors will use a variety of tests to diagnose this cancer, including blood tests, imaging tests, biopsies, and genetic testing. Genetic testing is necessary to confirm a mutation on the ALK gene.
What are the treatments for ALK positive lung cancer?
There are a number of ALK inhibitors that have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of this cancer. Zykadia, Alecensa, Lorbrena, Xalkori, and Alunbrig have all received approval. Other treatment options include chemotherapy and targeted therapy.