Introduction: Brain metastases (BM) are common in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and the prognosis is poor with few therapeutic options. This study evaluated the efficacy of three epidermal growth factor receptor–tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) in preventing and treating BM in patients with EGFR mutation-positive advanced NSCLC. Methods: Patients with EGFR mutation-positive advanced NSCLC who visited a tertiary referral center from 1 December 2013 to 30 November 2017 were analyzed retrospectively. They received gefitinib, erlotinib, or afatinib until disease progression, death, or intolerable adverse events. The cumulative incidence of subsequent BM of initial non-BM patients, progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS) of the BM and non-BM patients were estimated and compared using the Kaplan–Meier and log-rank tests. Results: 306 NSCLC patients were enrolled, with 116, 75, and 115 receiving first-line gefitinib, erlotinib, and afatinib, respectively. The afatinib group had a better PFS [12.7 versus 9.8 months; hazard ratio (HR) 0.59, p = 0.001] and OS (39.1 versus 22.0 months; HR 0.64, p = 0.035) than the gefitinib group. Afatinib tended to provide better BM prevention than gefitinib (BM cumulative incidence, HR 0.49; 95% confidence interval 0.34–0.71, p < 0.001) according to a Cox model adjusted for possible confounders. Patients with initial BM had a shorter PFS (p < 0.001) and OS (p = 0.015) than those without initial BM. Among the former, there were no differences in median PFS (p = 0.34) and median OS (p = 0.46) in the three EGFR-TKI groups. Conclusions: Our data suggested that, compared with gefitinib, afatinib provided better benefits significantly in terms of PFS and OS. Both had the same effectiveness in preventing subsequent BM.
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