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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the Experts Meeting on Lung Cancer and the Use of Erlotinib

Open Access Highly Accessed Proceedings

First- and second-line treatment of advanced metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer: a global view

Nicholas Thatcher

Author Affiliations

Division of Cancer Studies, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, Department of Medical Oncology, Christie Hospital NHS Trust, Wilmslow Road, Manchester, M20 4BX, UK

BMC Proceedings 2008, 2(Suppl 2):S3  doi:10.1186/1753-6561-2-S2-S3

Published: 24 September 2008


Treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer is dependent on disease stage. For patients with metastasis or locally advanced disease, the importance of finding therapeutic schemes that may benefit this population is important. This review discusses therapeutic options for first- and second-line treatment in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. According to current data, the combination of two cytotoxic agents is the optimum first-line treatment for patients with non-small-cell lung cancer and performance status of 0–1. Addition of bevacizumab has shown to provide an even longer survival and to increase response rate. Within the first-line setting, erlotinib appears to be effective in the treatment of elderly patients who would not derive a benefit from standard chemotherapy or those refusing standard chemotherapy. The administration of erlotinib as first-line maintenance therapy is being assessed. There are currently three drugs approved for second-line treatment of patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer after failure of first-line chemotherapy. These drugs have proven to be effective in phase III trials. In the phase III trial BR.21 study, the response rate was 8.9% in the erlonitib group, and less than 1% in placebo; median response duration was 7.9 months and 3.7 months, respectively; and the median survival was 6.7 months and 4.7 with erlotinib and placebo, respectively. One-year survival was 31% and 21% with erlotinib and placebo, respectively. In addition, the BR.21 trial revealed that significantly greater improvements in overall quality of life and in both physical and emotional functioning were observed in the erlotinib arm as compared with the placebo arm. Erlotinib is not significantly associated with hematologic adverse effects. Erlotinib is administered orally, and does not require concomitant administration of other drugs, thus causing patients less inconvenience. Analysis of data from different subgroups included in the BR.21 trial show that overall survival is similar among women and men, among patients with adenocarcinoma and epidermoid carcinoma or Asian patients compared with other ethnicities. Combination of erlotinib and bevacizumab in the second-line treatment of patients with advanced disease has been evaluated as anti-angiogenic properties. This combination therapy has provided promising results which should be confirmed in future studies.