Introduction: In metastatic gastric cancer, chemotherapy is the standard treatment because it prolongs survival when compared to best supportive care alone. However, even after the use of more effective regimens, the overall survival remains disappointing, justifying the need for new treatment options.
Areas covered: Areas covered in this review include the most common molecular pathways, which have provided novel targets in gastric cancer therapy. These therapeutic strategies include EGFR inhibitors, anti-angiogenic agents, cell cycle inhibitors and apoptosis promoters.
Expert opinion: Several mAbs and kinase inhibitors, especially those targeting EGFR and VEGF/VEGFR, have already demonstrated promising activity in gastric cancer. The Phase III ToGA trial reported an increase in overall survival for patients with human EGF receptor (HER)2-positive gastric cancer treated with chemotherapy and trastuzumab compared to chemotherapy alone. This means that accurate HER2 testing in gastric cancer is necessary. Final data of ongoing trials with novel agents will be critical to further progress with this cancer.