WEDNESDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Screening lung cancer patients for the presence of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene mutations can help identify those who will benefit most from treatment with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib, according to a study published online Aug. 19 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Rafael Rosell, M.D., of Hospital Germans Trias I Pujol in Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues analyzed data from the screening of 2,105 patients with lung cancer for the presence of the EGFR gene mutation and assessed patient and disease factors associated with the mutation. For those patients with the mutation who were treated with erlotinib, the researchers assessed outcomes.
The authors report that the EGFR mutation was present in 16.6 percent of the patients screened, and occurred more frequently in patients with adenocarcinomas (80.9 percent), women (69.7 percent), and those who had never been smokers (66.6 percent). For those receiving erlotinib, median progression-free survival was 14 months and overall survival was 27 months. Adverse events with erlotinib treatment included rashes and diarrhea.
"Screening for EGFR mutations is warranted in women with lung cancer, in those who have never smoked, and in those with non-squamous tumors. Large-scale screening of patients for EGFR mutations, with subsequent customization of erlotinib, is feasible and improves the outcome," Rosell and colleagues conclude.