Gefitinib (IRESSA), an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase (TK) inhibitor, has antitumour activity in the advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) setting. However, in chemotherapy-naïve patients with advanced NSCLC, the addition of gefitinib to standard chemotherapy regimens failed to increase survival. These results suggest the need for improved patient selection and combination rationales for targeted therapies. We have identified subpopulations of an adenocarcinoma cell line that are naturally resistant to gefitinib, and have analysed the cDNA expression profiles, genomic status of EGFR gene and the effect of gefitinib on signalling pathways in these cell lines in order to identify key mechanisms for naturally acquired resistance to gefitinib. Gefitinib-resistant subpopulations demonstrated increased Akt phosphorylation (not inhibited by gefitinib), reduced PTEN protein expression and loss of the EGFR gene mutation when compared with parental cell lines. These differences in Akt and PTEN protein expression were not evident from the cDNA array profiles. These data suggests that (1) the EGFR gene mutation may be possibly lost in some cancer cells with other additional mechanisms for activating Akt, (2) reintroduction of PTEN or pharmacological downregulation of the constitutive PI3K-Akt-pathway activity may be an attractive therapeutic strategy in cancers with gefitinib resistance.