Even though treatment of several types of solid tumors has improved in the past few years with the introduction of molecular targeted agents in the therapeutic armamentarium of the medical oncologist, response rates to these agents are generally modest. Increasing evidence is now revealing that genetic factors are affecting patients response to these therapeutic agents as well as the frequency and intensity of toxic reactions. Importantly, pharmacogenetic analysis is now required for the administration of several molecular targeted agents in clinical practice. For the vast majority of these agents, however, data remain purely experimental. Herein, we provide an overview of the genetic changes (mutations and polymorphisms) that have been associated with response to treatment with anticancer molecular targeted agents. Special emphasis is given on molecules (monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors) that target critical mediators in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2/ERBB2/NEU) and the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) pathways. The true clinical utility of these applications remains to be proven in future prospective, randomized clinical trials in large patient cohorts of all different ethnic backgrounds.
Keywords: Cancer, pharmacogenetics, molecular targeted therapy, individualized treatment