Current management of advanced non-small cell lung cancer: targeted therapy

Semin Oncol. 2005 Jun;32(3):315-28. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2005.02.016.


Lung cancer is one of the most frequent causes of cancer-related death in the United States. For patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), chemotherapy, alone or in combination with radiation therapy, is considered the standard treatment. Although this treatment may result in a modest improvement in patient survival, overall prognosis of these patients remains dismal, and the treatment is nonspecific, nonselective, and toxic. Therefore, new therapeutic strategies are needed. During the past decade, several molecules that contribute to lung cancer progression and metastasis have been identified. Growth factors and proangiogenic factors have been the focus of intense research in cancer since therapeutic approaches for their inhibition do exist. The role of these factors was studied in different organs and tumors and was found to be phenotypically distinct. Several molecular targeted therapies have shown efficacy and had been approved for treatment of specific cancers. Most advanced in clinical research for lung cancer are targeted therapies that inhibit the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling pathways. Others are signaling pathway inhibitors. The first targeted therapy for lung cancer is gefitinib, an EGFR inhibitor, which was approved in several countries in 2003. Goals of molecular targeted therapy studies include the following: better understanding of the exact role of particular growth factors in specific tumors; establishment of new clinical study designs for biological agents; and tailoring appropriate combinations of conventional chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy with biological therapy for specific patients. Achievement of these goals will hopefully lead to incorporation of biological therapy into the current anticancer arsenal, for the benefit of lung cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Farnesyltranstransferase
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase C / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Retinoid X Receptors / agonists


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase Inhibitors
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases
  • Farnesyltranstransferase
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor
  • Protein Kinase C