Targeting epidermal growth factor receptor in the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer

Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2010 Oct;11(14):2363-89. doi: 10.1517/14656566.2010.498581.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors