Targeting EGFR in pancreatic cancer treatment

Curr Drug Targets. 2012 Jun;13(6):802-10. doi: 10.2174/138945012800564158.


The prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer is extremely poor, and current systemic therapies provide marginal survival benefits for treated patients. The era of targeted therapies has offered a new avenue to search for potentially more effective strategies. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a member of the erbB/human epidermal growth factor receptor family of tyrosine kinases, which includes erbB2/HER2, erbB3/HER3 and erbB4/HER4. Epidermal growth factor receptor overexpression may be detected in up to 90% of pancreatic tumors. Two pharmacologic approaches have been successfully used to inhibit epidermal growth factor receptor function in cancer treatment: neutralizing monoclonal antibodies and small molecule tyrosine inhibitors. The randomized trials studying the addition of EGFR targeted agents to gemcitabine compared with gemcitabine alone have been disappointing, although results with the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib were statistically significant but clinically of marginal benefit. In this article, we review the epidermal growth factor receptor signaling network in pancreatic cancer, the strategies to increase the effectiveness of epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors, and the clinical trials of these inhibitors in pancreatic cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology
  • Quinazolines / therapeutic use
  • Survival Rate


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Quinazolines
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • ErbB Receptors