Targeting growth factor receptors: integration of novel therapeutics in the management of head and neck cancer

Curr Opin Oncol. 2001 May;13(3):168-75. doi: 10.1097/00001622-200105000-00007.


Tyrosine kinase (type 1) growth factor receptors include the erbB family. These cell surface receptors were discovered in the context of cellular transformation and have subsequently been found to be overexpressed in many types of human cancer. Cumulative evidence suggests that upregulation of the most well-characterized receptor, erbB1, also known as the epidermal growth factor receptor, plays a significant role in the development and progression of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. A variety of strategies have been developed that specifically target epidermal growth factor receptor, including monoclonal antibodies, ligand-linked immunotoxins, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, and antisense approaches. Epidermal growth factor receptor blockade in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cell lines and preclinical animal models inhibits cell proliferation and tumor growth. Clinical trials are under way to test the safety and efficacy of many of these targeting strategies in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients. Encouraging preliminary results combining an epidermal growth factor receptor targeting approaches with chemotherapy or radiotherapy suggest that interference with this growth factor receptor may enhance antitumor efficacy of standard therapies. As erbB family member interactions and downstream signaling pathways are elucidated in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, specific targeting strategies may become incorporated into standard treatment approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Prognosis


  • ErbB Receptors