The epidermal growth factor receptor is a cell membrane growth factor receptor that plays a key role in cancer development and progression. Epidermal growth factor receptor-activated signalling pathways control cell proliferation, apoptosis, angiogenesis and metastatic spread in the majority of human epithelial cancers. Targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor represents a valuable molecular approach to cancer therapy. Promising strategies in clinical development include monoclonal antibodies which block ligand binding and small molecule inhibitors of the tyrosine kinase enzymatic activity which prevent epidermal growth factor receptor autophosphorylation and propagation of downstream intracellular signals. Several anti-epidermal growth factor receptor agents are in clinical development for cancer therapy. Among these, IMC-225 (cetuximab), a chimeric human-mouse monoclonal IgG1 antibody, OSI-774 (Tarceva) and ZD1839 (Iressa), two small molecule epidermal growth factor receptor-selective tyrosine kinase inhibitors, are currently in Phase II and III development as single agents or in combination with conventional therapies, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Results from Phase I - II trials in advanced cancer demonstrate that these drugs have an acceptable tolerability and an interesting clinical activity in patients with a variety of tumour types.