The importance of ErbB3 receptor tyrosine kinase in cancer progression, primary and acquired drug resistance, has become steadily evident since its discovery in 1989. ErbB3 overexpression in various solid organ malignancies is associated with shorter survival of patients. However, initial strategies to therapeutically target ErbB3 have not been rewarding.
Here, we provide an overview of ErbB3 biology in carcinogenesis. We outline the role of ErbB3 as a critical pathway for resistance to other anti-cancer drugs. We focus on emerging clinical data, which will steer the potential future development of ErbB3 directed therapies.
Initial approaches to ErbB3 targeting have been challenging. However, the lack of success of anti-ErbB3 therapies in ongoing clinical trials may relate more to the complex biology of the receptor and challenges with the biomarkers used to date. Furthermore, it seems certain that the expression of the receptor per se is necessary but not sufficient for the response to ErbB3 therapies. Emerging data suggest that more sophisticated biomarkers are needed. Nonetheless, it is also likely that ErbB3 therapies may have the most efficacy in combination therapy, and their favorable toxicity profile makes this feasible.