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The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is expressed in the majority of colorectal cancers (CRCs) and is associated with poor clinical outcome. Ample evidence suggests that inhibition of this pathway by monoclonal antibodies directed against EGFR leads to antitumor activity in CRC. Small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) provide distinct advantages over monoclonal antibodies by virtue of lower production costs, ease of oral administration, and ability to target multiple cellular survival pathways. Despite theoretical advantages, multiple early-phase trials of EGFR TKIs fail to demonstrate single-agent activity in CRC. However, the unusually high response rates observed when gefitinib, an EGFR TKI, is combined with chemotherapy for patients with metastatic CRC suggest a possible synergistic effect. This effect is not seen in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), for which larger phase III trials have been conducted. The differences between NSCLC and CRC with respect to EGFR expression and mutation status do not completely explain this dichotomy, and further investigation into the pharmacogenomics of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibition in CRC is under way. Significant effort is directed toward newer strategies targeted at the EGFR in CRC. A new generation of small-molecule TKIs is emerging in which multiple receptor pathways, including ErbB2 and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, can be simultaneously targeted with EGFR. These agents are still in early-phase clinical trials, and specific data for patients with CRC are forthcoming.
View details for PubMedID 16336751