Anaplastic lymphoma kinase inhibitors in brain metastases from ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer: hitting the target even in the CNS
The paradigm shift occurring in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is encapsulated by the management of patients harboring oncogenic anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearrangements. The unprecedented improvements in patient outcomes resulting from ALK-directed therapy have led to the appreciation of patterns of disease progression. Early studies have suggested that some tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), including ALK TKIs, inefficiently penetrated the blood brain barrier. With the increasing appreciation of the CNS as a sanctuary site in ALK TKI-treated patients, there is increasing focus and importance on the prevention and control of CNS metastases in ALK-rearranged NSCLC. The spectrum of CNS activity is variable among the currently available ALK TKI therapies and further studies are ongoing. In the following review we discuss the ability of current and future ALK inhibitors (ALK-i) to control and prevent CNS progression in patients with ALK-rearranged NSCLC. The potential implications for TKI sequencing and important future research directions are discussed.