The varying efficacy and toxicity of traditional cancer therapies has driven the development of novel target-based agents. Members of the HER (Human Epidermal Receptor) family, in particular epidermal growth factor receptor (HER1/EGFR), are attractive therapeutic targets because they are overexpressed and/or dysregulated in many solid tumors. Activation of HER1/EGFR mediated through ligand binding triggers a network of signaling processes that promote tumor cell proliferation, migration, adhesion, and angiogenesis, and decrease apoptosis. Therefore, inhibiting HER1/EGFR activity could effectively block downstream signaling events and, consequently, tumorigenesis. Various approaches are being investigated to target members of the HER family, particularly HER1/EGFR and HER2. At the forefront are monoclonal antibodies and small molecules that inhibit the receptor tyrosine kinase activity. Monoclonal antibodies have been developed that act against HER1/EGFR and HER2. Monoclonal antibodies block ligand binding and prevent ligand-induced activation. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors block receptor phosphorylation, preventing downstream signal transduction. Several HER1/EGFR-targeted agents are advanced in clinical development and attention is focused on optimizing their clinical use. While this process may prove challenging, it promises to be beneficial.
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