Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and central nervous system (CNS) metastases: role of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and evidence in favor or against their use with concurrent cranial radiotherapy

Panagiota Economopoulou, Giannis Mountzios


Central nervous system (CNS) metastases, including brain metastases (BM) and leptomeningeal metastases (LM) represent a frequent complication of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Patients with BM comprise a heterogeneous group, with a median survival that ranges from 3 to 14 months. However, in the majority of patients, the occurrence of CNS metastases is usually accompanied by severe morbidity and substantial deterioration in quality of life. Local therapies, such as whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT), stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) or surgical resection, either alone or as part of a multimodality treatment are available treatment strategies for BM and the choice of therapy varies depending on patient group and prognosis. Meanwhile, introduction of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in clinical practice has led to individualization of therapy based upon the presence of the exact abnormality, resulting in a major therapeutic improvement in patients with NSCLC who harbor epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activating mutations or anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangements, respectively. Based on their clinical activity in systemic disease, such molecular agents could offer the promise of improved BM control without substantial toxicity; however, their role in combination with radiotherapy is controversial. In this review, we discuss the controversy regarding the use of TKIs in combination with radiotherapy and illustrate future perspectives in the treatment of BM in NSCLC.