ALK Gene Mutations May Present New Treatment Target for Some Lung Cancer Patients with Brain Tumors

Treatment options are limited for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has spread to the brain (brain metastases). Standard chemotherapy drugs often cannot penetrate the brain well enough to treat brain tumors, leaving radiation, surgery, or easing of symptoms as the only choices. However, drugs that target specific mutations in tumors may open up new possibilities. Some NSCLC patients who have mutations in the ALK gene are likely to benefit from treatment with ALK inhibitors like crizotinib (Xalkori). A study of NSCLC patients with ALK mutations in their lung tumors showed that ALK mutations were present in their brain tumors, too. This finding suggests that ALK inhibitors may be effective in treating brain metastases in patients with ALK-mutant NSCLC, as long as the drugs can effectively penetrate the brain.

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