Gefitinib and erlotinib, small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), were the first molecularly targeted agents to become clinically available for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). During the course of their clinical development, it has become clear that the substantial clinical benefit associated with EGFR-TKIs is limited to patients harboring activating mutations of EGFR. Accumulating clinical outcomes in patients with EGFR mutation-positive NSCLC treated with EGFR-TKIs support the notion that this group of individuals constitutes a clinically distinct population. These findings have prompted investigations of the potential role of first-line treatment with EGFR-TKIs in molecularly selected patients, with platinum-based doublet chemotherapy currently being the standard of care for most individuals with advanced NSCLC. This review summarizes the results of recent clinical trials of EGFR-TKIs in selected patients and highlights the efficacy of these drugs in first-line treatment as a form of personalized medicine aimed at improving therapy for advanced NSCLC.
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