Toward Tailored Cancer Therapy

Science's STKE  08 Jun 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 236, pp. tw210
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2362004tw210

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, and more effective therapies are urgently needed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the drug gefitinib (also known as Iressa), a small molecule that inhibits the tyrosine kinase activity of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor, which is overexpressed in many lung tumors. In clinical trials, the majority of lung cancer patients do not respond to gefitinib, but a small percentage show dramatic tumor regression. Paez et al. (see the Perspective by Minna et al.) have found a possible molecular explanation for these clinical results: The tumors of patients who respond to gefitinib treatment are much more likely to have mutations in the EGF receptor gene than are nonresponders. This discovery may help clinicians identify which patients are most likely to benefit from gefitinib, thus bringing the concept of personalized cancer therapy a step closer to reality.

J. G. Paez, P. A. Jänne, J. C. Lee, S. Tracy, H. Greulich, S. Gabriel, P. Herman, F. J. Kaye, N. Lindeman, T. J. Boggon, K. Naoki, H. Sasaki, Y. Fujii, M. J. Eck, W. R. Sellers, B. E. Johnson, M. Meyerson, EGFR mutations in lung cancer: Correlation with clinical response to gefitinib therapy. Science 304, 1497-1500 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]

J. D. Minna, A. F. Gazdar, S. R. Sprang, J. Herz, A bull's eye for targeted lung cancer therapy. Science 304, 1458-1461 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]