Cancer Res Treat.  2023 Apr;55(2):479-487. 10.4143/crt.2022.1344.

The Role of Brain Radiotherapy before First-Line Afatinib Therapy, Compared to Gefitinib or Erlotinib, in Patients with EGFR-Mutant Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer

  • 1Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Medicine, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea


Brain metastasis is common in patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)–mutant non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at initial presentation. A previous study showed that brain radiotherapy (RT) before first-generation (first-G) EGFR–tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy is associated with longer overall survival than TKI therapy alone. However, there is no data regarding the role of additional brain RT before afatinib therapy.
Materials and Methods
Between October 2014 and June 2019, EGFR-mutant NSCLC patients with brain metastases who started first-G EGFR-TKIs (gefitinib or erlotinib) or afatinib as first-line therapy were retrospectively analyzed. This study compared overall survival and intracranial progression-free survival (PFS) between patients who received EGFR-TKIs alone and EGFR-TKIs with brain RT and either a first-G EGFR-TKI or afatinib, respectively.
The median follow-up duration was 29.6 months (range, 1.5 to 116.9 months). In the first-G EGFR-TKI group (n=155), 94 patients (60.6%) received the first-G EGFR-TKI alone and 61 patients (39.4%) received brain RT prior to their first-G EGFR-TKI. In the afatinib group (n=204), 126 patients (61.8%) received afatinib alone and 78 patients (38.2%) received brain RT prior to afatinib. There was no difference in overall survival rates between the groups with RT (35.6 months: 95% confidence interval [CI], 27.9 to 43.3) and without RT (31.4 months: 95% CI, 23.9 to 38.9) in the afatinib group (p=0.58), but there was a significant difference in overall survival in the first-G EGFR-TKI group in a manner favoring additional brain RT (41.1 months: 95% CI, 30.5 to 51.7 vs. 25.8 months: 95% CI, 20.1 to 31.5; p=0.02). Meanwhile, median intracranial PFS was not different between patients who received EGFR-TKI therapy alone vs. EGFR-TKI therapy with brain RT in both the first-G EGFR-TKI (p=0.39) and afatinib (p=0.24) groups.
Afatinib therapy alone showed comparable survival outcomes to those of afatinib with brain RT. The current study suggests that brain RT could be an optional, not mandatory, treatment modality when afatinib therapy is considered in patients with EGFR-mutant NSCLC.


  • Fig. 1 Overall survival of patients with and without brain radiotherapy in the groups of first-generation epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (EGFR-TKI) (A) and afatinib (B) groups.

  • Fig. 2 Intracranial progression-free survival (PFS) of patients with and without brain radiotherapy in the groups of first-generation epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (EGFR-TKI) (A) and afatinib (B) groups.



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