Randomized Trial of Erlotinib Plus Whole-Brain Radiotherapy for NSCLC Patients With Multiple Brain Metastases

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Median survival of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with brain metastases is poor. We examined concurrent erlotinib and whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT) followed by maintenance erlotinib in patients with untreated brain metastases, given the potential radiosensitizing properties of erlotinib and its direct effect on brain metastases and systemic activity.


Eighty NSCLC patients with KPS of 70 and greater and multiple brain metastases were randomly assigned to placebo (n = 40) or erlotinib (100mg, n = 40) given concurrently with WBRT (20 Gy in 5 fractions). Following WBRT, patients continued with placebo or erlotinib (150mg) until disease progression. The primary end point was neurological progression-free survival (nPFS); hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated using Cox regression. All P values were two-sided.


Fifteen patients (37.5%) from each arm were alive and without neurological progression 2 months after WBRT. Median nPFS was 1.6 months in both arms; nPFS HR 0.95 (95% CI = 0.59 to1.54; P = .84). Median overall survival (OS) was 2.9 and 3.4 months in the placebo and erlotinib arms; HR 0.95 (95% CI = 0.58 to 1.55; P = .83). The frequency of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations was low with only 1 of 35 (2.9%) patients with available samples had activating EGFR-mutations. Grade 3/4 adverse event rates were similar between the two groups (70.0% in each arm), except for rash 20.0% (erlotinib) vs 5.0% (placebo), and fatigue 17.5% vs 35.0%. No statistically significant quality of life differences were found.


Our study showed no advantage in nPFS or OS for concurrent erlotinib and WBRT followed by maintenance erlotinib in patients with predominantly EGFR wild-type NSCLC and multiple brain metastases compared to placebo. Future studies should focus on the role of erlotinib with or without WBRT in patients with EGFR mutations.

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