Adherence to National Comprehensive Cancer Network ALK Testing Guidelines for Patients with Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer in U.S. Community Medical Centers

Eric H. Bernicker, Yan Xiao, Anup Abraham, Baiyu Yang, Denise A. Croix, Stella Redpath, Julia Engstrom-Melnyk, Roma Shah, Jaya Madala, Timothy C. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines recommend biomarker testing as the first step in the management of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (aNSCLC). We assessed anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) testing rates and factors related to underuse in community medical systems between 2012 and 2019 to understand guideline adoption. Methods: A retrospective observational study using a nationwide electronic health record (EHR)-derived deidentified database was conducted. Patients with aNSCLC diagnosed in community medical centers from January 2012 to May 2019 were included to describe the ALK testing trend. This cohort was further restricted to patients diagnosed after 2015 to understand factors associated with testing underuse using mixed-effects multivariable logistic regression models. Results: Trends for increased ALK testing rates by year were observed in both NCCN guideline-eligible patients (59.5% in 2012 to 84.1% in 2019) and -ineligible patients (15.6% to 50.8%) in a cohort of 41,728 patients. Histology type and smoking status had the greatest impact on test use. Compared with patients with nonsquamous histology and no smoking history, patients with squamous histology and no smoking history (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 7.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.6–10.4), NSCLC histology not otherwise specified (NOS) with smoking history (aOR, 3.4; 95% CI, 2.8–4.2); NSCLC NOS/nonsmoker (aOR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1–3.2), and nonsquamous/smoker (aOR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.3–1.7) were less likely to be tested. Factors related to underuse also included Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status, stage at initial diagnosis, and demographics. Conclusion: This analysis of real-world data shows increasing test use by year; however, one fifth of patients eligible for ALK testing still remain untested and potentially missing therapeutic options. Implications for Practice: Advancement in treatment of lung cancer is accompanied by an increasing number of tests that should be run to determine potential therapy options for each patient. This study assessed adoption of testing recommendations for anaplastic lymphoma kinase rearrangements in a national database. Although test use increased over the time period studied (2012–2019), there is still room for improvement. Efforts are needed to increase test use in undertested groups, thus enabling eligible patients to benefit from novel lung cancer therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1050-e1057
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • ALK
  • NCCN guidelines
  • Real-world evidence
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung/diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms/diagnosis
  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase/genetics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Electronic Health Records

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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