Biochemical and clinical implications of the ErbB/HER signaling network of growth factor receptors

Adv Cancer Res. 2000;77:25-79.


Carcinoma, cancer of epithelial cells, is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Western societies. Clonal fixation and propagation of oncogenic genetic changes, sporadically accumulating in epithelial cells, depend on growth factors and their surface receptors. One of the large families of receptors is that of the ErbB tyrosine kinases, which bind multiple neuregulins and other epidermal growth factor-like molecules. Certain ErbB members and their ligands are involved in human cancers of various origins. However, most of the clinical data relate to ErbB-2, a protein whose overexpression in subsets of carcinomas can predict poor prognosis. Although no ligand has so far been assigned to ErbB-2, recent biochemical evidence implies that this oncoprotein operates as a shared receptor subunit of other ErbBs. Several biochemical attributes enable ErbB-2 to act as an epithelial cell amplifier of stroma-derived growth factor signals: It delays ligand dissociation, enhances coupling to the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, and impedes the rate of receptor downregulation. The realization that ErbB-2 is a master regulator of a signaling network that drives epithelial cell proliferation identifies this protein as a target for cancer therapy. Indeed, various ErbB-2-directed therapeutic approaches, including immunological and genetic therapies, demonstrate promising clinical potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Genes, erbB-2
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / physiology*
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Receptor, ErbB-2