Targeting the human epidermal growth factor receptor type 2 (HER2) in breast cancer patients whose tumors overexpress HER2 has been clearly demonstrated to be effective in clinical trials with the monoclonal antibody trastuzumab. Not all patients, however, respond to trastuzumab therapy. Lapatinib is an oral receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor that targets HER2 and the EGFR. Preclinical data reveal that lapatinib has activity in trastuzumab-resistant cell lines as well as synergistic activity with trastuzumab. In a pivotal phase III trial, a combination of lapatinib and capecitabine significantly decreased the risk of disease progression relative to capecitabine alone in women with HER2-positive advanced or metastatic breast cancer previously treated with anthracyclines, taxanes, and trastuzumab. Other trials are evaluating lapatinib in inflammatory breast cancer--for which encouraging data have been reported--in combination with hormone therapy, in combination with trastuzumab, and as an adjunct to adjuvant therapy for early-stage disease. Notably, lapatinib has not been associated with serious or symptomatic cardiotoxicity in clinical trials. It can cross the blood-brain barrier and might therefore have a role in preventing central-nervous-system progression. These features make lapatinib an ideal agent to evaluate more fully in HER2-positive metastatic and early-stage breast cancer.