May 1st 2004
The treatment of colorectal cancer has undergone enormous changesin the past decade. From a disease with a single treatment option (ie,fluorouracil, a modestly effective drug), the treatment options haveevolved to include at least five new classes of antineoplastic agents.Among the considerable number of recently approved drugs, two aremonoclonal antibodies and are the testing ground for our rapidly emergingknowledge about cancer cell biology. Cetuximab (Erbitux) targetsthe epidermal growth factor receptor, an important molecule involvedwith cell cycling, survival, invasion, and metastasis. Bevacizumab(Avastin) neutralizes the vascular endothelial growth factor, blockingits ability to activate its receptor on the endothelial cells. The developmentof both antibodies resulted from decades of research in molecularand cell biology, as well as preclinical and clinical studies, and signalsa new paradigm where the tumor cells’ own unique features areexploited in a rational way.