Frequent overexpression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) makes EGFR a new therapeutic target. Two specific EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors, gefitinib (ZD1839, Iressa) and erlotinib (OSI-774, Tarceva), have been developed and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for second-line and third-line treatment of advanced NSCLC. Clinical trials have shown considerable variability in the response rate between different patients with NSCLC, which led to the discovery of somatic EGFR-activating mutations. This brief review summarises the discovery and functional consequences of the mutations, their clinicopathological features and significant implications in the treatment and prognosis of NSCLC.
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