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Oncology (Williston Park). 2003 Nov;17(11 Suppl 12):11-6.

Erlotinib: preclinical investigations.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Erlotinib (Tarceva) is an orally available selective small-molecule inhibitor of HER1/EGFR tyrosine kinase with a 50% inhibitory concentration of 2 nM for purified tyrosine kinase. This agent has been shown to produce stasis or regression of tumor growth in human cancer xenograft models, including non-small-cell lung cancer models. Ongoing preclinical investigations indicate that inhibition of the MAPK and Atk signaling pathways downstream of HER1/EGFR may be required for optimal antitumor effects. Erlotinib exhibits inhibition of MAPK and Atk kinases at concentrations higher than those required for HER1/EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibition; such findings suggest that maximal inhibition of HER1/EGFR, requiring high erlotinib doses, is necessary for optimum antitumor activity. These considerations are supported by tumor models, including non-small-cell lung cancer models, showing dose-related antitumor effects up to high doses of erlotinib. Erlotinib exhibits additive antitumor effects when combined with chemotherapeutic agents (cisplatin, doxorubicin, paclitaxel, gemcitabine [Gemzar], and capecitabine [Xeloda]), radiation therapy, and other targeted agents (e.g., bevacizumab [Avastin]). Recent studies indicate that erlotinib inhibits the EGFRvIII mutant at concentrations higher than those required for inhibition of wild-type receptor. Ongoing investigation will help to determine optimal dosing and dose frequency of erlotinib in various cancers in the clinical setting.

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