Dermatologic side effects associated with gefitinib therapy: clinical experience and management

Clin Lung Cancer. 2003 May;4(6):366-9. doi: 10.3816/clc.2003.n.016.


Gefitinib (ZD1839, Iressa ), a selective inhibitor of the epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase, is currently in clinical trials to treat a variety of solid tumors. Similar side effects were seen in numerous clinical trials of gefitinib, including recent phase II trials (Iressa Dose Evaluation in Advanced Lung Cancer [IDEAL]-1 and IDEAL-2) in patients with advanced, previously treated non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The most frequent drug-related adverse effects reported in these trials were diarrhea, dry skin, acneiform rash, and nausea and vomiting. Recently, IDEAL-2 investigators and oncology nurses participated in a panel discussion on the management of dermatologic adverse effects associated with gefitinib treatment. These dermatologic effects were related to the mechanism of action of gefitinib and were not caused by a drug-related allergic reaction. In IDEAL-2, investigators managed the symptoms of dry skin and rash with a variety of treatments, including topical clindamycin, antibiotics, and corticosteroids. Most patients had a high level of tolerance for the dermatologic effects associated with gefitinib, which were milder than toxicities associated with chemotherapy. The severity of skin effects cycled over time during treatment but typically subsided after several weeks of gefitinib treatment. In general, dermatologic effects of gefitinib were easily managed, reversible, and well tolerated by these patients with advanced NSCLC.