Background: Afatinib has demonstrated clinical benefit in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer progressing after treatment with erlotinib/gefitinib. This phase III trial prospectively assessed whether continued irreversible ErbB-family blockade with afatinib plus paclitaxel has superior outcomes versus switching to chemotherapy alone in patients acquiring resistance to erlotinib/gefitinib and afatinib monotherapy. Patients and methods: Patients with relapsed/refractory disease following ≥ 1 line of chemotherapy, and whose tumors had progressed following initial disease control (≥ 12 weeks) with erlotinib/gefitinib and thereafter afatinib (50 mg/day), were randomized 2:1 to receive afatinib plus paclitaxel (40 mg/day; 80 mg/m2/week) or investigator's choice of single-agent chemotherapy. The primary end point was progression-free survival (PFS). Other end points included objective response rate (ORR), overall survival (OS), safety and patient-reported outcomes. Results: Two hundred and two patients with progressive disease following clinical benefit from afatinib were randomized to afatinib plus paclitaxel (n ≥ 134) or single-agent chemotherapy (n ≥ 68). PFS (median 5.6 versus 2.8 months, hazard ratio 0.60, P ≥ 0.003) and ORR (32.1% versus 13.2%, P ≥ 0.005) significantly improved with afatinib plus paclitaxel. There was no difference in OS. Global health status/quality of life was maintained with afatinib plus paclitaxel over the entire treatment period. The median treatment duration was 133 and 51 days with afatinib plus paclitaxel and single-agent chemotherapy, respectively; 48.5% of patients receiving afatinib plus paclitaxel and 30.0% of patients receiving single-agent chemotherapy experienced drug-related grade 3/4 adverse events. Treatment-related adverse events were consistent with those previously reported with each agent. Conclusion: Afatinib plus paclitaxel improved PFS and ORR compared with single-agent chemotherapy in patients who acquired resistance to erlotinib/gefitinib and progressed on afatinib after initial benefit. LUX-Lung 5 is the first prospective trial to demonstrate the benefit of continued ErbB targeting post-progression, versus switching to single-agent chemotherapy. Trial registration number: NCT01085136 (clinicaltrials.gov).
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