Context More persons in the United States die from non–small cell lung
cancer (NSCLC) than from breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer combined.
In preclinical testing, oral gefitinib inhibited the growth of NSCLC tumors
that express the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a mediator of cell
signaling, and phase 1 trials have demonstrated that a fraction of patients
with NSCLC progressing after chemotherapy experience both a decrease in lung
cancer symptoms and radiographic tumor shrinkages with gefitinib.
Objective To assess differences in symptomatic and radiographic response among
patients with NSCLC receiving 250-mg and 500-mg daily doses of gefitinib.
Design, Setting, and Patients Double-blind, randomized phase 2 trial conducted from November 2000
to April 2001 in 30 US academic and community oncology centers. Patients (N
= 221) had either stage IIIB or IV NSCLC for which they had received at least
2 chemotherapy regimens.
Intervention Daily oral gefitinib, either 500 mg (administered as two 250-mg gefitinib
tablets) or 250 mg (administered as one 250-mg gefitinib tablet and 1 matching
Main Outcome Measures Improvement of NSCLC symptoms (2-point or greater increase in score
on the summed lung cancer subscale of the Functional Assessment of Cancer
Therapy-Lung [FACT-L] instrument) and tumor regression (>50% decrease in lesion
size on imaging studies).
Results Of 221 patients enrolled, 216 received gefitinib as randomized. Symptoms
of NSCLC improved in 43% (95% confidence interval [CI], 33%-53%) of patients
receiving 250 mg of gefitinib and in 35% (95% CI, 26%-45%) of patients receiving
500 mg. These benefits were observed within 3 weeks in 75% of patients. Partial
radiographic responses occurred in 12% (95% CI, 6%-20%) of individuals receiving
250 mg of gefitinib and in 9% (95% CI, 4%-16%) of those receiving 500 mg.
Symptoms improved in 96% of patients with partial radiographic responses.
The overall survival at 1 year was 25%. There were no significant differences
between the 250-mg and 500-mg doses in rates of symptom improvement (P = .26), radiographic tumor regression (P = .51), and projected 1-year survival (P =
.54). The 500-mg dose was associated more frequently with transient acne-like
rash (P = .04) and diarrhea (P = .006).
Conclusions Gefitinib, a well-tolerated oral EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitor, improved
disease-related symptoms and induced radiographic tumor regressions in patients
with NSCLC persisting after chemotherapy.