Will targeted therapy hold its promise? An evidence-based review

Curr Opin Oncol. 2008 Jan;20(1):104-11. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0b013e3282f44b12.


(1) Many of the significant advances in cancer management in recent years have centered on the development and introduction of molecularly targeted therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors.(2) Despite targeted therapy that has clearly benefited and even cured certain patients (eg, imatinib, trastuzumab), the ultimate goal of curing cancer, and the more immediate goal of replacing non-targeted chemotherapies with less toxic, targeted agents has yet to be achieved for most cancer patients.(3) Based on a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, examples of significant benefits in selected cancers are provided:(a) Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) - A large meta-analysis and several individual randomised, controlled trials (RCTs) report that rituximab plus chemotherapy has a major survival advantage over chemotherapy alone in patients with NHL; an overview of six clinical trials supports the survival benefit of rituximab plus chemotherapy.(b) Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) - Temsirolimus or sunitinib has a significant survival benefit relative to interferon-alpha, and sorafenib carries such a benefit in patients resistant to standard therapy.(c) Colorectal cancer (CRC) - An overview of three RCTs in metastatic CRC revealed that bevacizumab plus 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin possesses a significant survival advantage over 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin and irinotecan/5-fluorouracil/leucovorin.(d) Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) - In refractory NSCLC, erlotinib significantly prolongs survival, particularly in nonsmokers, and gefitinib may have some utility in patients of Asian ethnicity.(e) Head and neck squamous-cell carcinoma (HNSCC) - Cetuximab plus radiotherapy (versus radiotherapy alone) significantly improves locoregional control and survival (hazard ratio [HR] 0.68; p = 0.005) without worsening radiotherapy-related toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / drug therapy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Antineoplastic Agents