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Discov Med. 2010 Jul;10(50):44-51.

Nuclear mode of the EGFR signaling network: biology, prognostic value, and therapeutic implications.

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  • 1Division of Surgical Sciences, Department of Surgery, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) belongs to a large family of receptor tyrosine kinases that mediates many important physiological processes in both normal and cancerous cells. EGFR is best known for its classical role as a plasma membrane-bound receptor that, upon binding to its ligands, recruits and phosphorylates downstream molecules which subsequently regulate protein functions, protein-protein interactions, and gene expression. Built upon this traditional view of the EGFR pathway, a number of therapeutic agents have been developed aiming to target EGFR by blocking ligand-mediated receptor activation or by inhibiting its kinase activity. Unfortunately, most of these interventions have yielded disappointing clinical results in the majority of cancer types evaluated, with the exception of non-small cell lung cancer that carries specific EGFR mutants. Given the notion that these EGFR mutations are absent or very rare in other cancer types, extensive investigations have been directed at other potential mechanisms. Some of these efforts have led to rationales for EGFR-based combination regimens; however, they also demonstrated limited clinical benefits. In this review, we will focus on an emerging line of research that examines a novel mode of EGFR signaling that takes place in the cell nucleus. Specifically, we will outline the findings from a number of reports that have together established nuclear EGFR to be a functionally diversified molecule that regulates the biology of normal and malignantly transformed cells. In light of the fact that the impact of nuclear EGFR on anti-cancer therapy has recently developed into an area of intensive investigations, this review will also summarize the results of these investigations that suggest a potential role the nuclear EGFR may play in tumor response to radiation, chemotherapy, and EGFR-targeted therapy.

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