Tyrosine kinase inhibitors show different anti-brain metastases efficacy in NSCLC: A direct comparative analysis of icotinib, gefitinib, and erlotinib in a nude mouse model

Oncotarget. 2017 Oct 19;8(58):98771-98781. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.21936. eCollection 2017 Nov 17.


Brain metastasis is an increasing problem in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), including gefitinib, erlotinib, and icotinib, are reported to be effective in patients with brain metastases. However, direct comparative studies of the pharmacokinetics and efficacy of these three drugs in treating brain metastases are lacking. In the present investigation, we found that gefitinib penetrated the blood-tumor barrier and was distributed to brain metastases more effectively than erlotinib or icotinib in a nude mouse model. The 1-h ratio of brain metastases to plasma concentration for gefitinib, erlotinib, and icotinib was 9.82±1.03%, 4.83±0.25%, and 2.62±0.21%, respectively. The 2-h ratio of brain metastases to plasma concentration for gefitinib, erlotinib, and icotinib was 15.11±2.00%, 5.73±1.31%, and 2.69±0.31%, respectively. Gefitinib exhibited the strongest antitumor activity (pgefitinib vs. erlotinib=0.005; pgefitinib vs. icotinib=0.002). Notably, erlotinib exhibited a better treatment efficacy than icotinib (p=0.037). Consistently, immunohistochemical data showed that TKIs differentially inhibit the proliferation of metastatical tumor cells. Gefitinib and erlotinib markedly inhibited the proliferation of tumor cells, while there were more ki-67-positive tumor cells in the icotinib group. Additionally, gefitinib inhibited the phosphorylation of EGFR better than the other drugs, whereas pEGFR expression levels in erlotinib groups were lower than levels in the icotinib group (pgefitinib vs. erlotinib=0.995; pgefitinib vs. icotinib=0.028; perlotinib vs. icotinib=0.042).Altogether, our findings suggest that gefitinib and erlotinib can inhibit the growth of PC-9-luc brain tumors. Gefitinib demonstrated better antitumor activity and penetration rate in brain metastases than erlotinib or icotinib.

Keywords: blood-tumor barrier; brain metastasis; cerebrospinal fluid; non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC); tyrosine kinase inhibitors.