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For Patients the Judith Tam ALK Lung Cancer Research Initiative

Male nurse sits with female patients looking over paperwork

FOR A PATIENT DIAGNOSED WITH NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER that is genetically driven by an ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) rearrangement, a major concern at diagnosis is whether the standard tyrosine kinase inhibitor drug they are taking will continue to be effective for a long time and what drug or drugs will be able to be taken, if progression occurs, to achieve disease control. Understanding and overcoming these concerns is the main focus of the work proposed here by the multidisciplinary lung cancer team at the University of Michigan Health Rogel Cancer Center.


Hear from a patient

Long-time ALK survivor, ALK Positive, Inc. Board member, and prominent Medical Committee member, Jeff Sturm, writes about his personal experience participating in the University of Michigan’s ALK project by having his tumor tissue removed and tested to inform future treatment decisions. Read about his experience.


Current Treatments

At this time, treatment interventions for patients with ALK-positive lung cancer include surgical resection, radiotherapy, and oral medications known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). TKIs are a targeted drug therapy that disrupts protein synthesis and distribution in cancer cells. Studies have demonstrated that TKIs may slow and/or inhibit cancer progression. Examples of ALK TKIs include alectinib, brigatinib, crizotinib, ceritinib, and lorlatinib.

Over time, it is possible for ALK-positive lung cancers to develop resistance to TKIs, which is remediated by switching to a new TKI medication. Resistance may develop after 1-2 years while on the same TKI medication.

Why join our study?

Dr. Sofia Merajver has assembled a group of industry leaders from across the globe which includes oncology, thoracic surgery, pathology, pharmacy, biochemistry, cellular biology, bioinformatics, and clinical science. Our team uses a multidisciplinary approach to better understand and develop treatments for ALK-positive lung cancer. Together, we hope to work with an actively engaged patient community to advance the future of cancer care. We are also currently in the process of achieving CLIA certification to provide formal reports from sample processing to help inform clinical decision making. Learn more by visiting our Frequently Asked Questions page.



What is Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer?

About 85% to 90% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). There are 3 main subtypes of NSCLC. The cells in these subtypes differ in size, shape, and chemical make-up when looked at under a microscope. But they are grouped together because the approach to treatment and prognosis (outlook) are very similar.

Types of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer


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Squamous (epidermoid) cell cancer

About 25% to 30% of all lung cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers start in early versions of squamous cells, which are flat cells that line the inside of the airways in the lungs. They are often linked to a history of smoking and tend to be found in the middle of the lungs, near a bronchus.



About 40% of lung cancers are adenocarcinomas. These cancers start in early versions of the cells that would normally secrete substances such as mucus. This type of lung cancer occurs mainly in people who smoke (or have smoked), but it is also the most common type of lung cancer seen in non-smokers. It is more common in women than in men, and it is more likely to occur in younger people than other types of lung cancer.


Large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma

This type of cancer accounts for about 10% to 15% of lung cancers. It may appear in any part of the lung. It tends to grow and spread quickly, which can make it harder to treat.


Other subtypes

This type of cancer accounts for about 10% to 15% of lung cancers. It may appear in any part of the lung. It tends to grow and spread quickly, which can make it harder to treat.