, Volume 61, Issue 23, pp 2965-2978

Oncogenic protein tyrosine kinases

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HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor-2; also known as erbB2) and its relatives HER1 (epidermal growth factor receptor; EGFR), HER3 and HER4 belong to the HER family of receptor tyrosine kinases. In normal cells, activation of this receptor tyrosine kinase family triggers a rich network of signaling pathways that control normal cell growth, differentiation, motility and adhesion in several cell lineages. The first tumor studied for an alteration of the HER2 oncogene is breast carcinoma, and so far the majority of studies have been performed on this oncotype. Although involvement of HER2 as a cause of human cell transformation needs to be further investigated, overexpression of the HER2 oncogene in human breast carcinomas has been associated with a more aggressive course of disease. It has been suggested that this association depends on HER2-driven proliferation, vessel formation and/or invasiveness; however, poor prognosis may not be directly related to the presence of the oncoprotein on the cell membrane but instead to the breast carcinoma subset identified by HER2 overexpression and characterized by a peculiar gene expression profile, as recently identified. HER2-positive tumors were recently shown to benefit from anthracyclin treatment and to be resistant to endocrine therapy. Despite the fact that many pathways interacting with HER2 are still not fully understood, this tyrosine kinase receptor is, to date, a promising molecule for targeted therapy.