Tyrosine kinase receptors as attractive targets of cancer therapy

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2004 Apr;50(1):23-38. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2003.08.004.


Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are the main mediators of the signaling network that transmit extracellular signals into the cell, and control cellular differentiation and proliferation. Recent and rapid advances in our understanding of cellular signaling by receptor tyrosine kinases, in normal and malignant cells, have brought to light the potential of RTKs as selective anti-cancer targets. Their activity is normally tightly controlled and regulated. Overexpression of RTK proteins or functional alterations caused by mutations in the corresponding genes or abnormal stimulation by autocrine growth factor loops contribute to constitutive RTK signaling, resulting in dysregulated cell growth and cancer. The mechanisms of uncontrolled RTK signaling that leads to cancer has provided the rationale for anti-RTK drug development. Herceptin, Gleevec, and Iressa are the first examples of drugs which have successfully translated basic research on oncogenes into cancer therapeutics. RTKs can be viewed as multifunctional targets, and strategies towards the prevention and inhibition of RTK signaling include antibodies, antagonist ligands, small molecule inhibitors of protein kinase activity, and inhibitors of protein-protein interactions. Progresses in the field of rational drug design and computational chemistry will vastly benefit from the availability of increasing structural knowledge of both the kinase domains and the ligand-binding sites of these receptors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Ligands
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases