EGFR pathway in advanced non-small cell lung cancer

Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2011 Jan 1;3:501-17. doi: 10.2741/s168.


Chemotherapy is the standard of care for patients with advanced stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) because of the a modest improvement in survival and quality of life but its efficacy has already reached a plateau. Several molecular targets involved in the uncontrolled growth of lung cancer cells has been recently discovered and Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) pathway is as a key therapeutic target. Strategies to block such pathway include tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and monoclonal antibodies. Erlotinib and gefitinib are two EGFR-TKI active against NSCLC. Their efficacy has been proven to be definitively superior in presence of activating EGFR mutation in the tumor. This evidence does not apply to the monoclonal antibody cetuximab, which efficacy in NSCLC was recently demonstrated in a single phase III study. The good tolerability profile of EGFR inhibitors make these agents suitable for maintenance and adjuvant setting, while sequencing of EGFR-TKIs and chemotherapy seems to be preferred. This article reviews the role of EGFR inhibitors focusing mainly on compounds in phase III clinical development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / enzymology
  • Cetuximab
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • Gefitinib
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology
  • Quinazolines / therapeutic use


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Quinazolines
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Cetuximab
  • Gefitinib