ErbB receptors and signaling pathways in cancer

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2009 Apr;21(2):177-84. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2009 Feb 7.


The ErbB receptor tyrosine kinases play important roles in normal physiology and in cancer. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and ErbB2 in particular are mutated in many epithelial tumors, and clinical studies suggest that they play roles in cancer development and progression. These receptors have been intensely studied, not only to understand the mechanisms underlying their oncogenic potential, but also to exploit them as therapeutic targets. ErbB receptors activate a multiplicity of intracellular pathways via their ability to interact with numerous signal transducers. Furthermore, there are now many ErbB-targeted inhibitors used in the clinic. In this review we will concentrate on breast tumors with ERBB2 gene amplification/receptor overexpression and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with activating EGFR mutations. We will discuss data showing the important role that the PI3K/Akt pathway plays, not only in cancer development, but also in response to targeted therapies. Finally, mechanisms contributing to resistance to ErbB-targeted therapeutics will also be discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Trastuzumab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Trastuzumab