Epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors for the treatment of central nervous system metastases from non-small cell lung cancer: the present and the future

Transl Lung Cancer Res. 2016 Dec;5(6):563-578. doi: 10.21037/tlcr.2016.10.16.


Lung cancer is one of the major causes of cancer related mortality worldwide. Brain metastases (BM) complicate clinical evolution of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in approximately 25-40% of cases, adversely influencing quality of life (QoL) and overall survival (OS). Systemic therapy remains the standard strategy for metastatic disease. Nevertheless, the blood-brain barrier (BBB) makes central nervous system (CNS) a sanctuary site. To date, the combination of chemotherapy with whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT), surgery and/or stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) represents the most used treatment for patients (pts) with intracranial involvement. However, due to their clinical conditions, many pts are not able to undergo local treatments. Targeted therapies directed against epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), such as gefitinib, erlotinib and afatinib, achieved important improvements in EGFR mutated NSCLC with favorable toxicity profile. Although their role is not well defined, the reported objective response rate (ORR) and the good tolerance make EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) an interesting valid alternative for NSCLC pts with BM, especially for those harboring EGFR mutations. Furthermore, new-generation TKIs, such as osimertinib and rociletinib, have already shown important activity on intracranial disease and several trials are still ongoing to evaluate their efficacy. In this review we want to highlight literature data about the use and the effectiveness of EGFR-TKIs in pts with BM from NSCLC.

Keywords: Brain metastases (BM); epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs); non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC); whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT).

Publication types

  • Review