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Biologics. 2008 Mar;2(1):83-95.

Erlotinib in the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer.

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  • 1University of California, San Francisco, Comprehensive Cancer Center.


Single agent gemcitabine has been the mainstay of therapy for advanced pancreatic cancer over the past decade. Multiple trials of newer chemotherapeutic agents both alone and in combination have yielded disappointing results, spurring the ongoing search for new agents and combinations in this aggressive malignancy. Inhibitors of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have shown promising activity in multiple solid tumors types, and preclinical data support a role for EGFR inhibition in pancreatic cancer. A recent phase III study by the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group (NCIC-CTG) demonstrated a significant survival benefit with the addition of the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, erlotinib, to gemcitabine chemotherapy for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, becoming the first phase III study to demonstrate a survival benefit of combination therapy as well as targeted therapy in this disease. This article reviews the evidence supporting EGFR inhibition and the use of erlotinib in advanced pancreatic cancer as well as future implications of targeted therapy in this challenging malignancy.


EGFR; Tarceva; erlotinib; pancreas; pancreatic

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