Epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer

Expert Opin Emerg Drugs. 2005 Nov;10(4):855-74. doi: 10.1517/14728214.10.4.855.


Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women. Despite the introduction of the newer cytotoxic agents in NSCLC treatment during the last decade the survival rates of patients have reached a plateau. New strategies are clearly needed to improve treatment outcomes. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has a key role in cancer development and progression and has been recognised as a target of increasing importance in NSCLC. Gefitinib, erlotinib and cetuximab are EGFR-targeting agents that are being extensively evaluated in NSCLC. EGFR inhibitors demonstrate significant clinical activity in approximately 10-20% of pretreated NSCLC patients. Somatic mutations in the kinase domain of the receptor have been shown to be associated with enhanced sensitivity to EGFR inhibitors. However, four large Phase III randomised, placebo-controlled trials of gefitinib and erlotinib in combination with standard platinum-based first-line chemotherapy failed to show any survival benefit in patients receiving the study drugs. Possible reasons include patient selection, drug scheduling, trial design or other factors. Active research is ongoing to improve the efficacy of EGFR inhibitors as monotherapy or in combination with other treatment modalities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / trends
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • ErbB Receptors