The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a promising target for cancer therapy and a number of EGFR-targeted agents have been developed. Those most advanced in development are the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors gefitinib ('Iressa', ZD1839) and erlotinib ('Tarceva', OSI-774), and the monoclonal antibody cetuximab ('Erbitux', IMC-C225). This review provides a clinical overview of these agents, highlighting their antitumour activities in different tumour types. Epidermal growth factor receptor-targeted agents are generally well tolerated and are not typically associated with the severe adverse events often seen with cytotoxic chemotherapy. Gefitinib is the agent with the most extensive clinical experience, particularly in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Recently, gefitinib became the first-approved EGFR-targeted agent, for use in patients with previously treated advanced NSCLC in Japan, the USA and other countries. Further studies are required to explore the full potential of these novel agents either as monotherapy or combination therapy.