REVIEW Gefitinib is the first selective inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor''s (EGFR) tyrosine kinase domain. The target protein (EGFR) is a family of receptors which includes Her1(erb-B1), Her2(erb-B2), and Her 3(erb-B3). EGFR is overexpressed in the cells of certain types of human carcinomas. This leads to inappropriate activation of the anti-apoptotic Ras signalling cascade, eventually leading to uncontrolled cell proliferation. Research on gefitinib-sensitive non-small cell lung cancers has shown that a mutation in the EGFR tyrosine kinase domain is responsible for activating anti-apoptotic pathways. These mutations tend to confer increased sensitivity to tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as gefitinib and erlotinib. Of the types of non-small cell lung cancer histologies, adenocarcinoma is the type that most often harbors these mutations. Gefitinib inhibits EGFR tyrosine kinase by binding to the adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-binding site of the enzyme. Thus the function of the EGFR tyrosine kinase in activating the anti-apoptotic Ras signal transduction cascade is inhibited, and malignant cells are inhibited.
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