Spontaneous regression of ALK fusion protein-positive non-small cell lung carcinoma: a case report and review of the literature

Maria Walls, Gerard M. Walls, Jacqueline A. James, Kyle T. Crawford, Hossam Abdulkhalek, Tom B. Lynch, Aaron J. Peace, Terry E. McManus, O. Rhun Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: ALK-rearrangement is observed in < 5% non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cases and prior to the advent of oral tyrosine kinase inhibitors, the natural history of oncogenic NSCLC was typically poor. Literature relating to regression of treatment-naïve NSCLC is limited, and regression without treatment has not been noted in the ALK-rearranged sub-population. CASE PRESENTATION: A 76 year old 'never smoker' female with an ALK-rearranged left upper lobe T2 N0 NSCLC experienced a stroke following elective DC cardioversion for new atrial fibrillation. Following a good recovery, updated imaging demonstrated complete regression of the left upper lobe lesion and a reduction of the previously documented mediastinal lymph node. Remaining atelectasis was non-avid on repeat PET-CT imaging, 8 months from the baseline PET-CT. When the patient developed new symptoms 6 months later a further PET-CT demonstrated FDG-avid local recurrence. She completed 55 Gy in 20 fractions but at 18 months post-radiotherapy there was radiological progression in the lungs with new pulmonary metastases and effusion and new bone metastases. Owing to poor performance status, she was not considered fit for targeted therapy and died 5 months later. CONCLUSION: All reported cases of spontaneous regression in lung cancer have been collated within. Documented precipitants of spontaneous regression across tumour types include biopsy and immune reconstitution; stroke has not been reported previously. The favourable response achieved with radical radiotherapy alone in this unusual case of indolent oncogenic NSCLC reinforces the applicability of radiotherapy in locally advanced ALK-rearranged tumours, in cases not behaving aggressively. As a common embolic event affecting the neurological and pulmonary vasculature is less likely, an immune-mediated mechanism may underpin the phenomenon described in this patient, implying that hitherto unharnessed principles of immuno-oncology may have relevance in oncogenic NSCLC. Alternatively, high electrical voltage applied percutaneously adjacent to the tumour during cardioversion in this patient may have induced local tumour cell lethality.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 06 Aug 2020


  • ALK rearrangement
  • Cancer immunity
  • DC cardioversion
  • Electric therapy
  • Embolism
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Radiotherapy
  • Spontaneous regression
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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