Use of the epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors gefitinib, erlotinib, afatinib, dacomitinib, and icotinib in the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer: a systematic review

P.M. Ellis, N. Coakley, R. Feld, S. Kuruvilla, Y.C. Ung



This systematic review addresses the use of epidermal growth factor receptor (egfr) inhibitors in three populations of advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (nsclc) patients—unselected, selected, and molecularly selected—in three treatment settings: first line, second line, and maintenance.


Ninety-six randomized controlled trials found using the medline and embase databases form the basis of this review.


In the first-line setting, data about the efficacy of egfr tyrosine kinase inhibitors (tkis) compared with platinum-based chemotherapy are inconsistent. Results from studies that selected patients based on clinical characteristics are also mixed. There is high-quality evidence that an egfr tki is preferred over a platinum doublet as initial therapy for patients with an activating mutation of the EGFR gene. The egfr tkis are associated with a higher likelihood of response, longer progression-free survival, and improved quality of life. Multiple trials of second-line therapy have compared an egfr tki with chemotherapy. Meta-analysis of those data demonstrates similar progression-free and overall survival. There is consequently no preferred sequence for second-line egfr tki or second-line chemotherapy. The egfr tkis have also been evaluated as switch-maintenance therapy. No molecular marker could identify patients in whom a survival benefit was not observed; however, the magnitude of the benefit was modest.


Determination of EGFR mutation status is essential to making appropriate treatment decisions in patients with nsclc. Patients who are EGFR mutation–positive should be treated with an egfr tki as first-line therapy. An egfr tki is still appropriate therapy in patients who are EGFR wild-type, but the selected agent should be administered as second- or third-line therapy.


non-small-small cell lung cancer; egfr inhibitors; mutation status; systematic review

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)