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Understanding the Disease

Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase-Positive Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

The ALK Gene

Advances in genetic research have revealed that non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is not a single disease, but rather many types of cancer with specific genetic differences. Because of these small but important differences, lung cancer medicines that target specific genes, such as anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), can be developed.

About 2% to 7% of people with NSCLC are considered to be ALK-positive (ALK+). But genetic differences aren’t the only differences between people who have ALK+ NSCLC and people who have general NSCLC. Other important differences include age at diagnosis and smoking history. People who have ALK+ metastatic NSCLC may benefit from ZYKADIA® (ceritinib), a treatment that may block the action of ALK.

Disease Progression

Although ALK+ metastatic NSCLC tumors can initially respond to ALK+ treatment, over time they may become resistant (or stop responding). This could happen within a year of treatment and may result in a relapse for the patient. Signs may include an increase in size of tumor or development of new tumors.

If you experience any health-related changes, it’s important to talk to your doctor.

Treatment Resistance

Treatment resistance may develop when:

  • Mutations (or changes) to the ALK gene interfere with how a specific ALK inhibitor works
  • Other genes with similar actions to ALK become active in the tumor
  • Other mutations not affected by treatment appear within the tumor

Tumors that become resistant to an ALK inhibitor may still be responsive to a different ALK inhibitor.