Targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor

Br J Cancer. 2004 Aug 2;91(3):418-24. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6601921.


The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a member of the erbB family of tyrosine kinase receptors (RTK). The EGFR is involved in cell proliferation, metastasis and angiogenesis, and is expressed in a large proportion of epithelial tumours. The two main classes of EGFR inhibitors in clinical trials are the RTK inhibitors and the monoclonal antibodies. The clinical development of EGFR inhibitors has introduced new challenges to the design of phase I, II, and III trials. Both classes of agents can be safely administered at doses sufficient to inhibit the EGFR system. Receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors have been extensively evaluated in non-small-cell lung cancer. In this setting, gefitinib has demonstrated activity in patients who fail initial chemotherapy. Monoclonal antibodies have been developed in combination with cytotoxic chemotherapy in several tumour types, most notably colorectal and head and neck cancer. The preliminary results suggest an increase in response rate and time to progression with the combination of cetuximab and chemotherapy in both disease models. Future issues in the development of EGFR inhibitors include the identification of biologic predictors of response, combination with other targeted agents, and their utilisation in earlier stage malignancies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cetuximab
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors / physiology*
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • Gefitinib
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Quinazolines
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Cetuximab
  • Gefitinib