Meta-analysis of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors compared with chemotherapy as second-line treatment in pretreated advanced non-small cell lung cancer

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 16;9(7):e102777. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102777. eCollection 2014.


Background: Since efficacy and safety of epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) versus chemotherapy in the treatment of patients with pretreated advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remain controversial, we performed a meta-analysis to compare them.

Methods: An internet search of several databases was performed, including PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane database. Randomized trials that compared an EGFR-TKI with chemotherapy in the second-line setting were included. The outcomes were progression-free survival (PFS), overall survival (OS), objective response rate (ORR), and grade 3-4 toxicities. The PFS, OS for the EGFR mutation-positive (EGFR M+) and EGFR mutation-negative (EGFR M-) subgroups were pooled. The pooled hazard ratios (HRs) and odds ratios (ORs) with their corresponding confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated on the STATA software.

Results: Our meta-analysis combined 3,825 patients from 10 randomized trials. Overall, EGFR-TKIs and second-line chemotherapy have equivalent efficacy in terms of PFS (HR, 1.03; 95%CI, 0.87-1.21; P = 0.73; I2 = 78.7%, Pheterogeneity<0.001), OS (HR, 1.00; 95%CI, 0.92-1.08; P = 0.90; I2 = 0.0%, Pheterogeneity = 0.88), and ORR (OR, 1.34; 95%CI, 0.86-2.08; P = 0.20; I2 = 73.1%, Pheterogeneity<0.001). However, subgroup analysis based on EGFR mutation status showed that second-line chemotherapy significantly improved PFS (HR, 1.35; 95%CI, 1.09-1.66; P = 0.01; I2 = 55.7%, Pheterogeneity = 0.046) for EGFR M- patients, whereas OS was equal (HR, 0.96; 95%CI, 0.77-1.19; P = 0.69; I2 = 0.0%, Pheterogeneity = 0.43); EGFR-TKIs significantly improved PFS (HR, 0.28; 95%CI, 0.15-0.53; P<0.001; I2 = 4.1%, Pheterogeneity = 0.35) for EGFR M+ patients, whereas OS was equal (HR, 0.86; 95%CI, 0.44-1.68; P = 0.65; I2 = 0.0%, Pheterogeneity = 0.77). Compared with chemotherapy, EGFR-TKIs led to more grade 3-4 rash, but less fatigue/asthenia disorder, leukopenia and thrombocytopenia.

Conclusions: Our analysis suggests that chemotherapy in the second-line setting can prolong PFS in EGFR M- patients, whereas it has no impact on OS. EGFR-TKIs seem superior over chemotherapy as second-line therapy for EGFR M+ patients. Our findings support obtaining information on EGFR mutational status before initiation of second-line treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Humans
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.