Article Abstract

Advances on EGFR mutation for lung cancer

Authors: Giulio Metro, Lucio Crinò


Patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and somatic activating mutations of the tyrosine kinase (TK) domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene represent a biologically distinct disease entity that shows exquisite sensitivity to the reversible EGFR-TK inhibitors (-TKIs) gefitinib or erlotinib. Phase III randomized studies have clearly demonstrated that a reversible EGFR-TKI is significantly superior in terms of response rate, progression-free survival and quality of life to platinum-based chemotherapy in advanced NSCLC patients who carry an activating EGFR mutation, thus resulting into a new standard of care for this biologically selected group of patients. Unfortunately, approximately one third of EGFR-mutated patients show primary resistance to gefitinib or erlotinib, whereas virtually all patients who initially benefit from treatment will eventually develop acquired resistance. Importantly, revealing the molecular mechanisms that underlie resistance to reversible EGFR-TKIs is key to the development of EGFR-targeting strategies with the potential to prevent, delay or overcome such resistance. Early results of clinical trials with irreversible EGFR-TKIs or dual combination strategies aiming to block EGFR-mediated signaling at different levels have shown encouraging results in EGFR-mutated patients pretreated or not with a reversible EGFR-TKI. Therefore, in the near future it is reasonable to hypothesize that EGFR-mutated NSCLCs could be treated with multiple lines of EGFR-targeting therapies beyond disease progression, limiting chemotherapy to selected cases of resistant disease. This evolving treatment scenario highlights once again how important is the identification of a single oncogenic "addiction" that functions as unique determinant of progression and survival of NSCLC.