Doctor's Notes on Stage IV Lung Cancer With ALK Rearrangement
Stage IV lung cancer is metastatic lung cancer that has spread to other organs; ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) refers to a rearrangement of genes to form a fusion gene in the lung cancer cells that become ALK positive tumors (produce ALK) that are very sensitive to drug therapy (slows cancer cell's growth and division). Signs and symptoms for this advanced lung cancer are the same as for other non-small cell stage IV cancers and include
- cough (with occasional blood),
- difficulty breathing,
- chest pain,
- swallowing problems,
- weight loss,
- bone pain, and
ALK rearrangement has no signs or symptoms but is found with genetic testing of lung cancers; treatment of stage IV lung cancer with special drugs that target ALK may increase the patient's lifespan.
The precise cause of stage IV lung cancer with ALK rearrangement is not known, but both genetic and environmental factors like asbestos exposure have been associated with lung cancers. ALK genetic rearrangements are found in about 3%-7% of lung cancers, usually in younger individuals.
What Are the Treatments for Stage IV Lung Cancer with ALK Rearrangement?
You and your doctor should discuss additional drug treatments if your stage IV lung cancer has the ALK genetic rearrangement because there are drugs available that target the cancer cells' abnormal fusion protein that the cancer cells use to augment division or growth. Targeting this protein can produce slowing of cancer cell growth that may result in producing a longer lifespan for patients. The drugs that have been developed include the following:
The above may be used with other treatments for lung cancers, but these drugs may have side effects that may limit use. Your cancer team of doctors can determine if your stage IV lung cancer with ALK rearrangement will benefit from such treatment.
Lung Cancer : Signs and Symptoms QuizQuestion
Lung cancer is a disease in which lung cells grow abnormally in an uncontrolled way.See Answer
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.