A growing family: adding mutated Erbb4 as a novel cancer target

Cell Cycle. 2010 Apr 15;9(8):1487-503. doi: 10.4161/cc.9.8.11239. Epub 2010 Apr 15.


As the upward spiral of novel cancer gene discoveries and novel molecular compounds continues to accelerate, a repetitive theme in molecular drug development remains the lack of activity of initially promising agents when given to patients in clinical trials. It is however invigorating that a few targeted agents directed against a select group of a few 'cancer gene superfamilies' have escaped this all to common fate, and have evolved into novel, clinically meaningful molecular therapy strategies. Targeting dysregulated signaling of the epidermal growth factor family of transmembrane receptors (Erbb family) has encompassed over the last decade an ever increasing role in personalized treatment approaches in an increasing number of human malignancies. Erbbs are receptor tyrosine kinases that are important regulators of several signaling pathways. Two of its family members (Erbb1/EGFR and Erbb2/HER2) have previously been shown to be somatically mutated in large fraction of human cancers. To determine if this family is somatically mutated in melanoma, its sequences were recently analyzed and one of its members, Erbb4, was found to be somatically mutated in 19% of melanoma cases. Functional analysis of seven of its mutations was shown to increase its catalytic and transformation abilities as well as providing essential survival signals. Similar to other Erbb family members, mutant Erbb4 seems to confer 'oncogene addiction' on melanoma cells, making it an attractive therapeutic target. Gaining further understanding into the oncogenic mechanism of Erbb4 may not only help in the development of targeted therapy in melanoma patients but might accelerate the acceptance of a novel taxonomy of cancer which is based on the genomic perturbations in cancer genes and cancer gene families and their response to targeted agents.

MeSH terms

  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Melanoma / drug therapy
  • Melanoma / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Precision Medicine
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptor, ErbB-4
  • Signal Transduction
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics


  • Ligands
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • ERBB4 protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor, ErbB-4