Boy with Lymphoma Successfully Treated with Lung Cancer Drug

Xalkori caps.JPG

Recently, the parents of a boy named Zach Witt told their story to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). When Zach was 5 years old, he was diagnosed with ALK-positive anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

After a year of standard chemotherapy, the effectiveness of which was somewhat unclear, Zach's parents learned about a clinical trial involving children with ALK-positive ALCL. The trial was testing a drug originally approved to treat non-small cell lung cancer, Xalkori (crizotinib).

Read the Witt's entry at the American Association for Cancer Research

Zach's response to the drug has evidently been remarkable. At nine years old, four years after he was first diagnosed with cancer, he's "back to being the high-octane boy he was before his diagnosis."


Xalkori is a prescription drug taken orally two times a day. It works by blocking the action of a genetic defect called the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) fusion gene, which, when present, can promote cancer growth. All of us have the ALK gene; not all of us have a defect or mutation in the ALK gene. Not all of those people with the defective gene will develop an ALK-positive cancer.

The drug, marketed by Pfizer, is currently only approved for lung cancer. The web site dedicated to the drug,, still states that it is not known whether the drug is safe for children. Zach was treated at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which is a member institution of the cooperative Children's Oncology Group (COG). The huge majority of clinical trials involving children with cancer in the United States run through COG.

Watch Zach's parents tell their story in the video below:

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