Because conventional chemotherapy is not specific for cancer cells leading to toxic side effects there is a need for novel agents with high grade antitumor specificity. The major prerequisite to develop such drugs is to understand the targets that these agents should attack. In recent years a number of promising new anticancer drugs have been developed which target intracellular pathways or extracellular cell molecules. The clinically most effective compounds function as tyrosine kinase inhibitors. In the past, various tyrosine kinase receptors have been identified as regulators of tumor or tumor vessel growth. Having shown their expression characteristics in different tumor entities, specific inhibitors of the ATP binding sites of these receptors or antibodies were developed and entered clinical trials. The pathognomonic role of the tyrosine kinase defines the way of action of the inhibiting drug, whereas the amount of expression in tumor tissue defines the rationale to use the inhibitor to treat a specific protein. The future will define indications for such drugs by tumor kinase profiles instead of tumor entities. Gleevec, inhibiting the BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase; Iressa, inhibiting the EGF-receptor tyrosine kinase, Herceptin, inhibiting the Her2 / neu tyrosine kinase and PTK787 / ZK222584, inhibiting the VEGF-receptor tyrosine kinase will be discussed as representatives of selective tyrosine kinase inhibitors whereas ZD6474 and SU6668 will be discussed as representatives of multitarget tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
Keywords: tyrosine kinases, receptor tyrosine kinase, anti cancer, vegf-receptor, egf-receptor
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