Clinical definition of acquired resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors in non-small-cell lung cancer.
Ten percent of North American patients with non-small-cell lung cancer have tumors with somatic mutations in the gene for the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Approximately 70% of patients whose lung cancers harbor somatic mutations in exons encoding the tyrosine kinase domain of EGFR experience significant tumor regressions when treated with the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) gefitinib or erlotinib. However, the overwhelming majority of these patients inevitably acquire resistance to either drug. Currently, the clinical definition of such secondary or acquired resistance is not clear. We propose the following criteria be used to define more precisely acquired resistance to EGFR TKIs. All patients should have the following criteria: previous treatment with a single-agent EGFR TKI (eg, gefitinib or erlotinib); either or both of the following: a tumor that harbors an EGFR mutation known to be associated with drug sensitivity or objective clinical benefit from treatment with an EGFR TKI; systemic progression of disease (Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors [RECIST] or WHO) while on continuous treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib within the last 30 days; and no intervening systemic therapy between cessation of gefitinib or erlotinib and initiation of new therapy. The relatively simple definition proposed here will lead to a more uniform approach to investigating the problem of acquired resistance to EGFR TKIs in this unique patient population. These guidelines should minimize reporting of false-positive and false-negative activity in these clinical trials and would facilitate the identification of agents that truly overcome acquired resistance to gefitinib and erlotinib.