Discovery and characterization of recurrent, targetable ALK fusions in leiomyosarcoma

Lara E. Davis, Kevin D. Nusser, Joanna Przybyl, Janet Pittsenbarger, Nicolle E. Hofmann, Sushama Varma, Sujay Vennam, Maria Debiec-Rychter, Matt van de Rijn, Monika A. Davare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Soft-tissue sarcomas such as leiomyosarcoma pose a clinical challenge because systemic treatment options show only modest therapeutic benefit. Discovery and validation of targetable vulnerabilities is essential. To discover putative kinase fusions, we analyzed existing transcriptomic data from leiomyosarcoma clinical samples. Potentially oncogenic ALK rearrangements were confirmed by application of multiple RNA-sequencing fusion detection algorithms and FISH. We functionally validated the oncogenic potential and targetability of discovered kinase fusions through biochemical, cell-based (Ba/F3, NIH3T3, and murine smooth muscle cell) and in vivo tumor modeling approaches. We identified ALK rearrangements in 9 of 377 (2.4%) patients with leiomyosarcoma, including a novel KANK2-ALK fusion and a recurrent ACTG2-ALK fusion. Functional characterization of the novel ALK fusion, KANK2-ALK, demonstrates it is a dominant oncogene in Ba/F3 or NIH3T3 model systems, and has tumorigenic potential when introduced into smooth muscle cells. Oral monotherapy with targeted ALK kinase inhibitor lorlatinib significantly inhibits tumor growth and prolongs survival in a murine model of KANK2-ALK leiomyosarcoma. These results provide the first functional validation of a targetable oncogenic kinase fusion as a driver in a subset of leiomyosarcomas. Overall, these findings suggest that some soft-tissue sarcomas may harbor previously unknown kinase gene translocations, and their discovery may propel new therapeutic strategies in this treatment-refractory cancer. Implications: A subset of leiomyosarcomas harbor previously unrecognized oncogenic ALK fusions that are highly responsive to ALK inhibitors and thus these data emphasize the importance of detailed genomic investigations of leiomyosarcoma tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)676-685
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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