Gastric cancer is the fourth most common malignant neoplasm and the second leading cause of death for cancer in Western countries with more than 20000 new cases yearly diagnosed in the United States. Surgery represents the main approach for this disease but, notwithstanding the advances in surgical techniques, we observed a minimal improvement in terms of overall survival with a significant increasing of relapsing disease rates. Despite the development of new drugs has significantly improved the effectiveness of chemotherapy, the prognosis of patients with unresectable or metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma remains poor. Recently, several molecular target agents have been investigated; in particular, trastuzumab represents the first target molecule showing improvements in overall survival in human epithelial growth factor 2-positive gastric cancer patients. New molecules targeting vascular epithelial growth factor, mammalian target of rapamycin, and anti hepatocyte growth factor-c-Met pathway are also under investigation, with interesting results. Anyway, it seems necessary to select more accurately the population to treat with new agents by the identification of new biomarkers in order to optimize the results. In this paper we review the actual "scenario" of targeted treatments, also focusing on the new agents in development for gastric cancer and gastro-esophageal carcinoma, discussing their efficacy and potential applications in clinical practice. (C) 2014 Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
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