Targeting cell-signalling pathways that confer survival advantage to cancer cells has become a major focus of investigation for the treatment of various malignancies. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a disease with wide molecular heterogeneity, has become a main testing ground for the evaluation of various targeted agents. Inhibition of the epidermal growth factor pathway with erlotinib results in improved survival and symptom control for patients with advanced NSCLC who progressed following one or two prior chemotherapy regimens. Gefitinib, the first epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor to be approved by the FDA, failed to demonstrate survival advantage over placebo in a large Phase III trial for patients with advanced NSCLC. The results of this study have raised several important clinical and biological issues that may be relevant for the development of other targeted agents. Recent identification of mutations in the ATP-binding pocket of the EGFR is the first step towards proper patient selection for therapy with an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor. In addition, predictive potential has also been seen with EGFR gene amplification. It is unclear whether monoclonal antibodies against the EGFR may be active independent of the EGFR mutation, as the site of action is different from tyrosine kinase inhibitors. A recent randomised clinical trial that combined the antiangiogenic agent bevacizumab with chemotherapy has demonstrated survival advantage over chemotherapy alone for certain subsets of patients with advanced NSCLC. The exciting results of this study represent an important advance in the treatment of patients with advanced NSCLC.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pharmacology (medical)