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BACKGROUND: Starting in 2010, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) kinase inhibitors erlotinib and gefitinib were introduced into routine use in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) for treating advanced lung cancer, but their impact in this setting is unknown. OBJECTIVE: The study described in this protocol aims to understand the effectiveness and safety of these new personalized lung cancer treatments and the contributions made by concomitant medicines and other factors to adverse outcomes in the general NZ patient population. A substudy aimed to validate national electronic health databases as the data source and the methods for determining patient eligibility and identifying outcomes and variables. METHODS: This study will include all NZ patients with advanced EGFR mutation-positive lung cancer who were first dispensed erlotinib or gefitinib before October 1, 2020, and followed until death or for at least 1 year. Routinely collected health administrative and clinical data will be collated from national electronic cancer registration, hospital discharge, mortality registration, and pharmaceutical dispensing databases by deterministic data linkage using National Health Index numbers. The primary effectiveness and safety outcomes will be time to treatment discontinuation and serious adverse events, respectively. The primary variable will be high-risk concomitant medicines use with erlotinib or gefitinib. For the validation substudy (n=100), data from clinical records were compared to those from national electronic health databases and analyzed by agreement analysis for categorical data and by paired 2-tailed t tests for numerical data. RESULTS: In the validation substudy, national electronic health databases and clinical records agreed in determining patient eligibility and for identifying serious adverse events, high-risk concomitant medicines use, and other categorical data with overall agreement and κ statistic of >90% and >0.8000, respectively; for example, for the determination of patient eligibility, the comparison of proxy and standard eligibility criteria applied to national electronic health databases and clinical records, respectively, showed overall agreement and κ statistic of 96% and 0.8936, respectively. Dates for estimating time to treatment discontinuation and other numerical variables and outcomes showed small differences, mostly with nonsignificant P values and 95% CIs overlapping with zero difference; for example, for the dates of the first dispensing of erlotinib or gefitinib, national electronic health databases and clinical records differed on average by approximately 4 days with a nonsignificant P value of .33 and 95% CIs overlapping with zero difference. As of May 2024, the main study is ongoing. CONCLUSIONS: A protocol is presented for a national whole-of-patient-population retrospective cohort study designed to describe the safety and effectiveness of erlotinib and gefitinib during their first decade of routine use in NZ for treating EGFR mutation-positive lung cancer. The validation substudy demonstrated the feasibility and validity of using national electronic health databases and the methods for determining patient eligibility and identifying the study outcomes and variables proposed in the study protocol. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12615000998549; INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): DERR1-10.2196/51381.

Original publication




Journal article


JMIR Res Protoc

Publication Date





epidermal growth factor receptor, erlotinib, gefitinib, lung cancer, retrospective cohort, study protocol, validation, Humans, Erlotinib Hydrochloride, Gefitinib, Lung Neoplasms, ErbB Receptors, Retrospective Studies, New Zealand, Mutation, Female, Male, Protein Kinase Inhibitors, Antineoplastic Agents, Cohort Studies, Middle Aged, Aged