Lung cancer is a difficult illness with a poor overall survival. Even though combination strategies with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery have all been utilised, the overall outcome for this disease continues to be relatively disappointing. In order to make a difference in the treatment of lung cancer, novel therapeutics will have to be developed. Through basic biological studies, a number of receptor tyrosine kinases have been implicated in the pathogenesis and progression of lung cancer. In this review, the authors summarise the mechanisms of several major receptor tyrosine kinases in lung cancer, especially epidermal growth factor receptor, Her2/neu, MET, vascular endothelial growth factor and KIT. The biology associated with these receptors is described, and the various novel therapeutic inhibitory strategies that are ongoing in preclinical and clinical studies for lung cancer are detailed. Through understanding of receptor tyrosine kinases and the utilisation of specific inhibitors, it is hopeful that a dramatic impact will be made on the biology and therapy for lung cancer.