Presence of pleural effusion is associated with a poor prognosis in patients with epidermal growth factor receptor–mutated lung cancer receiving tyrosine kinase inhibitors as first-line treatment

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This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of clinical factors on the treatment outcomes of lung cancer patients with active epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations treated by first-line tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).


Patients of stage IIIb or IV lung adenocarcinoma harboring mutated EGFR were enrolled between March 2010 and June 2014 and followed up until December 2015. The effects of various clinical features, such as age, sex, smoking history, EGFR mutation types, TKIs used, presence of pleural effusion, metastatic sites on progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS), were analyzed retrospectively.


A total of 104 patients were included in this study. Patients with pleural effusion at initial diagnosis had significantly shorter PFS and OS than those without pleural effusion (median PFS: 8.2 months vs 15.3 months, P = 0.0004; median OS: 16.3 months vs 28.2 months, P = 0.0003). Univariate analysis revealed that being male or a smoker was associated with short PFS, whereas smoking history, bony metastasis and malignant pleural effusion were associated with poor OS. Stepwise multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that the presence of pleural effusion and different TKI use were independent prognostic factors for PFS [hazard ratio [HR] = 2.50 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.53–4.10), P = 0.0003 and HR = 0.55 (95% CI, 0.31–0.97), P = 0.0396, respectively], whereas the presence of pleural effusion and liver metastasis were associated with poor OS [HR = 2.79 (95% CI: 1.46–5.30), P = 0.0018 and HR = 2.12 (95% CI, 1.02–4.40), P = 0.0440, respectively].


The presence of pleural effusion predicts poor PFS and OS in lung adenocarcinoma patients receiving TKIs as the first-line treatment. Additional studies are warranted to elucidate the underlying mechanisms and determine novel strategies for improving the outcome of these patients.

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