An open label phase II study evaluating first-line EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib in non-small cell lung cancer patients with tumors showing high EGFR gene copy number

Oncotarget. 2017 Mar 7;8(10):17270-17278. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.13793.


Background: First-line treatment with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors in NSCLC is effective in patients with activating EGFR mutations. The activity of erlotinib in patients harboring high EGFR gene copy number has been considered debatable.

Patients and methods: A multicenter, open-label, single-arm phase II clinical trial was performed to test the efficacy of erlotinib in the first-line treatment of NSCLC patients harboring high EGFR gene copy number defined as ≥4 copies in ≥40% of cells.

Findings: Between December 2007 and April 2011, tumor samples from 149 subjects were screened for EGFR gene copy number by fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH), Out of 49 patients with positive EGFR FISH test, 45 were treated with erlotinib. Median PFS in the intent-to-treat population was 3.3 months (95%CI: 1.8-3.9 months), and median overall survival was 7.9 months (95% CI: 5.1-12.6 months). Toxicity profile of erlotinib was consistent with its known safety profile. The trial was stopped prematurely at 63% of originally planned sample size due to accumulating evidence that EGFR gene copy number should not be used to select NSCLC patients to first-line therapy with EGFR TKI. Data on erlotinib efficacy according to EGFR, KRAS and BRAF mutations are additionally presented.

Interpretation: This trial argues against using high gene copy number for selection of NSCLC patients to first-line therapy with EGFR TKIs. The study adds to the discussion on efficacy of other targeted agents in patients with target gene amplified tumors.

Keywords: epidermal growth factor receptor; erlotinib; gene copy number; non-small cell lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Diarrhea / chemically induced
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride / adverse effects
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride / therapeutic use*
  • Exanthema / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Gene Dosage
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics
  • Treatment Outcome


  • KRAS protein, human
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • BRAF protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)