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In Depth Overview of Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Treatment of EGFR+ Lung Cancer

*July 2019* by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D. for CancerConnect. 

Tagrissio, Tarceva and other TKI therapy for EGFR + NSCLC continue to evolve and improve survival.

Advances in cancer research have highlighted the importance of understanding the specific characteristics of each person’s cancer. These characteristics—which include not only the particular type of cell involved but also gene mutations and protein expression—can have a profound effect on the behavior of the cancer and its response to particular treatments.

The EGFR—which stands for “epidermal growth factor receptor”—contributes to the growth of some lung cancers and drugs that block the activity of EGFR slow cancer growth and prolong survival.

EGFRs are small proteins that are found on the surface of all cells. EGFR binds proteins circulating in the blood called growth factors. The binding action between EGFR and growth factors stimulates biological processes within the cell to promote growth of a cell in a strictly controlled manner. However, in many cancer cells, EGFR is either abundantly over-expressed or the EGFR biological processes that normally stimulate cell growth are constantly active. This leads to the uncontrolled and excessive growth of the cancer cell.

Guidelines from the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) have been developed and they recommend EGFR mutation testing at initial diagnosis of all lung cancer patients.

Among people with NSCLC, EGFR mutations are most common in people of Asian ethnicity, women, never-smokers, and those with a type of lung cancer known as adenocarcinoma. EGFR mutations occur in 30–40% of NSCLC’s in Asian populations compared to 10–15% in Western populations. (1)

EGFR-targeted drugs that have been shown to benefit selecte patients with NSCLC belong to a class of drugs known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). The drugs enter the cell and interfere with EGFR from within. Read more.