RET Mutations May Emerge as New Target for Lung Cancer Treatments

A certain type of mutation in a protein, called RET, occurs in a significant subset of lung cancer patients, a recent study shows. Known as ‘rearrangements,’ these mutations fuse the RET gene with other nearby genes, resulting in a RET protein that contains parts of other proteins and is hyperactive. Patients with similar rearrangement mutations in another gene, ALK, can experience drastic improvements from treatment with ALK inhibitors such as crizotinib (Xalkori). This raises the hope that patients with RET rearrangement mutations may be similarly helped by drugs that block RET–either novel RET inhibitors or existing tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), such as vandetanib (Caprelsa), sunitinib (Sutent), sorafenib (Nexavar), or ponatinib (Iclusig). Identifying patients who may benefit from such treatments would be made easier by the new test for RET mutations developed by the study’s authors. When examining a group of patients with lung adenocarcinoma, a type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), who did not have mutations in other cancer-relevant genes, the researchers found that 15% had RET rearrangement mutations.