The anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) receptor tyrosine kinase was initially discovered as a component of the fusion protein nucleophosmin (NPM)-ALK in anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL). Genomic alterations in ALK, including rearrangements, point mutations, and genomic amplification, have now been identified in several malignancies, including lymphoma, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), neuroblastoma, inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor, and others. Importantly, ALK serves as a validated therapeutic target in these diseases. Several ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI), including crizotinib, ceritinib, and alectinib, have been developed, and some of them have already been approved for clinical use. These ALK inhibitors have all shown remarkable clinical outcomes in ALK-rearranged NSCLC. Unfortunately, as is the case for other kinase inhibitors in clinical use, sensitive tumors inevitably relapse due to acquired resistance. This review focuses on the discovery, function, and therapeutic targeting of ALK, with a particular focus on ALK-rearranged NSCLC.
©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.