Dermatological side effects of targeted antineoplastic therapies: a prospective study

Cutan Ocul Toxicol. 2020 Dec;39(4):380-384. doi: 10.1080/15569527.2020.1833028. Epub 2020 Oct 20.


Introduction: Epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors (EGFRs) are chemotherapeutic agents used in multiple solid organ malignity. These medications have common dermatological side effects, particularly papulopustular (PPL) lesions. The management of the diagnosis and treatment processes for such side effects may facilitate the continuation of chemotherapy and enhance the patient's quality of life.

Objective: The objective of this study is to report the cutaneous side effects of EGFR inhibitors and to share treatment methods for such side effects.

Materials and methods: In this prospective study, 59 patients using EGFR due to breast and colorectal carcinoma at the oncology unit of Haseki Training and Research Hospital were assessed. The patients for whom EGFR was initiated were examined at the beginning of the treatment at weeks 1 and 2, their demographic characteristics were recorded, and the patients who developed a skin rash were followed up from the onset of the lesion. The PPL side effects that developed in the patients and other dermatological findings were recorded. The PPL side effects were graded, and the treatment plans were reported. The study was conducted between February 2016 and February 2018 under the approval of the local ethical committee.

Results: The mean age of the 59 patients (47 females, 12 males) taking EGFR inhibitors was 52.4 ± 12.0 (range: 29-84). Forty-five patients had early stage and 14 patients had advanced stage carcinoma. Fourteen patients had colorectal carcinoma, three patients had renal cancer, and 42 patients had breast cancer. Forty-two patients were using trastuzumab (single therapy in 29 patients and combined therapy in 13 patients), five patients were using cetuximab, three patients were using sunitinib, eight patients were using panitumumab, and six patients were using pertuzumab. In 22 patients, PPL side effects were observed in the skin; it was G1 in 19 patients and G2 in three patients. In seven patients who developed acneiform side effects, systemic doxycycline was used, and in others, topical tetracycline and clindamycin were used. Except for one patient using trastuzumab, all patients has lesions on the face, upper trunk, and back. One patient exhibited an atypical rash, which was diagnosed as a granulomatous follicular reaction. Xerosis was present in two cases, and paronychia, pyogenic granuloma, trichomegaly, and madarosis were observed in one patient each. The patients who developed an acneiform rash were treated with topical and systemic antibiotics, light keratolytics, and emollients. The skin side effects of all patients were mild to moderate, and all patients completed the chemotherapy process. An acneiform skin rash and other dermatological side effects are common with EGFR inhibitors. To treat these side effects, emollients, topical steroids, and local, systemic antibiotics are recommended. Clindamycin may be preferred as a topical treatment, and doxycycline may be preferred as a systematic treatment.

Keywords: Epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors; acneiform eruption; paronychia; skin toxicity; targeted chemotherapy; trichomegaly; xerosis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors