Specific and reversible EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) such as gefitinib and erlotinib are clinically active in advanced or metastatic NSCLC and both are approved in various countries for the treatment of patients that failed prior chemotherapy. Erlotinib has also prolonged survival in pancreatic cancer patients when added to gemcitabine and regulatory approval in this disease is being sought. Additional promising activity has been seen in other tumor types, such as ovarian cancer or head and neck malignancies, and phase III trials in these malignancies are ongoing or planned. Despite these successes, these agents have exhibited anecdotal or modest activity when used as single agents in unselected patients with various other tumor types. We have learned that the clinical development of these agents is far from simple and we need to better understand biological and clinical criteria for patient selection and how to best use the different available agents. The recent discovery of EGFR mutations and the potential identification of other markers that might predict patient response could help to optimize the use of these agents in the future. Irreversible EGFR inhibitors, dual EGF/HER2 and pan-ErbB receptor inhibitors may have greater antitumor activity although the tolerance of these compounds compared to specific EGFR TKIs needs further characterization. HER2 specific TKIs are also in development. Lapatinib, a dual EGFR/HER2 TK inhibitors, is particularly promising in breast cancer. Newer agents, such as BMS-599626, have recently entered into the clinic .In addition to the use of these agents as single agents, many clinical studies are addressing the role of combining them with hormonal agents, biological agents or chemotherapy.
Keywords: egfr, her2, gefitinib, erlotinib, lapatinib, nsclc, breast cancer
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