Erlotinib hydrochloride (Tarceva®) is a member of a class of small molecule inhibitors that targets the tyrosine kinase domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), with anti-tumor activity in preclinical models. Erlotinib represents a new-generation of agents known as "targeted therapies" designed to act upon cancer cells by interfering with aberrant specific activated pathways needed for tumor growth, angiogenesis and cell survival. Since its approval in November 2004 for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after the failure of at least one prior chemotherapy regimen and with a view to improving patients' outcomes and prevent symptoms, the scientific community has evaluated the potential role of erlotinib in other scenarios such as in maintenance therapy and, in first-line setting for a selected population based on biological markers of response such as mutations of the EGFR. The convenient once-a-day pill administration and the good toxicity profile of erlotinib make it a reasonable candidate for testing in this context. This report provides a review of the role of erlotinib therapy in advanced NSCLC. It summarizes current data and perspectives of erlotinib in upfront treatment and maintenance for advanced NSCLC as well as looking at candidate biomarkers of response to these new targeted-agents. © 2010 Reguart et al.
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