Survival Outcomes in EGFR Mutation-Positive Lung Cancer Patients Treated with Gefitinib until or beyond Progression

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Background: Discontinuation of gefitinib treatment is often accompanied by a disease flare. Some studies have demonstrated a benefit of the use of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) beyond progression; however, long-term results of these investigations remain limited. Patients and Methods: We observed 70 patients with EGFR-mutated (EGFR-M+) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) receiving single-agent gefitinib in a routine clinical setting; 56 patients were experiencing RECIST progression at the time of the analysis. Results: There was a significant increase (p = 0.00001) in overall survival (OS) in patients continuing on gefitinib beyond progression (n = 21; median duration of continued gefitinib use: 4.2 months; median OS: not reached; expected OS: 29.7 months) as compared to those who stopped gefitinib treatment upon disease progression (n = 35; median OS: 14.0 months). The association between extended gefitinib use and improved OS remained true in multivariate Cox regression analysis (hazard ratio = 4.49, 95% confidence interval 1.25-16.09; p = 0.021). Patient selection bias constitutes an essential limitation of this clinical observational study, given that patients with a more favorable disease course and/or high initial tumor sensitivity to TKI treatment were more likely to be considered for prolonged gefitinib use. Conclusion: This study confirms that continued administration of gefitinib beyond progression is a viable treatment option for some patients with EGFR-M+ NSCLC, in particular those who cannot be rescued by novel EGFR mutation-specific inhibitors such as osimertinib.

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