Importance of the field: The management of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has undergone a paradigm shift in the last decade, with the survival advantage demonstrated by the incorporation of anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) agents to the standard treatment of advanced/metastatic NSCLC.
Areas covered in this review: We review the existing data regarding the distinct anti-EGFR agents in the NSCLC treatment and the potential role of the investigated biomarkers in the clinical outcome.
What the reader will gain: Tyrosine kinase inhibitors have been used in first-line, second-line and more settings with extremely good results in a subgroup of patients. Cetuximab remains the only anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody to show survival benefit when combined with a cytotoxic agent in the front-line setting. Anti-EGFR treatment is associated with a dramatic clinical benefit in a subgroup of patients, emphasizing the importance of customizing treatment. Several biomarkers have been investigated for their predictive or prognostic value. Validation of identification of biomarkers remains a focus of intense research that may ultimately guide therapeutic decision making, as none of these is considered ideal to discriminate responding from non-responding patients. However, the current evidence of the EGFR mutation analysis from a recent randomised trial suggests that EGFR mutation analysis is quite a good predictive marker for responsiveness to anti-EGFR TKIs. Moreover, the identification of surrogate markers to indicate optimal activity of the anti-EGFR agent is also needed. This review article provides data from large clinical trials using anti-EGFR agents and correlates these results with the tested biomarkers.
Take home message: EGFR inhibition has shown very encouraging results and has improved the outcome of the NSCLC treatment. However, a plateau of significant clinical benefit seems to have been reached and we believe that the time to move away from the traditional treatment approach to more individualizing therapies has come.