The epidermal growth factor receptor is a member of the ErbB family of receptors, a subfamily of four closely related receptor tyrosine kinases: EGFR (ErbB-1), HER2/c-neu (ErbB-2), Her 3 (ErbB-3) and Her 4 (ErbB-4). Mutations affecting EGFR expression or activity could result in cancer.
Epidermal growth factor and its receptor was discovered by Stanley Cohen of Vanderbilt University. Cohen shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Rita Levi-Montalcini for their discovery of growth factors.
The receptor for epidermal growth factor (EGFR) is a prime target for cancer therapy across a broad variety of tumor types. As it is a tyrosine kinase, small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) targeting signal transduction, as well as monoclonal antibody against the EGFR, have been investigated as anti-tumor agents 1).
Development of epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs): gefitinib or erlotinib, was an improvement in treatment of advanced NSCLC patients. EGFR mutations are present in 10-25% of NSCLC (mostly adenocarcinoma), and up to 55% in never-smoking women of East Asian descent. In the non-selected group of patients with BMF-NSCLC, the overall response rates after gefitinib or erlotinib treatment range from 10% to 38%, and the duration of response ranges from 9 to 13.5 months. In the case of present activating EGFR mutation, the response rate after EGRF-TKIs is greater than 50%, and in selected groups (adenocarcinoma, patients of Asian descent, never-smokers, asymptomatic BMF-NSCLC) even 70%. Gefitinib or erlotinib treatment improves survival of BMF-NSCLC patients with EGFR mutation in comparison to cases without the presence of this mutation. There is no data on the activity of the anti-EML4-ALK agent crizotinib. Bevacizumab, recombinant humanised monoclonal antibody anti-VEGF, in the treatment of advanced non-squamous NSCLC patients is a subject of intense research. Data from a clinical trial enrolling patients with pretreated or occult BMF-NSCLC proved that the addition of bevacizumab to various chemotherapy agents or erlotinib is a safe and efficient treatment, associated with a low incidence of CSN haemorrhages. However, the efficacy and safety of bevacizumab used for therapeutic intent, regarding active brain metastases is unknown 2).