The advent of affordable technologies to perform detailed molecular profiling of tumours has transformed understanding of the specific genetic events that promote carcinogenesis and which may be exploited therapeutically. The application of targeted therapeutics has led to improved outcomes in advanced disease and this approach is beginning to become established in the management of potentially curable disease for surgical patients.


This review article focuses on recent developments in the management of operable cancers of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, specifically discussing the currently available data that evaluate the incorporation of targeted therapies in this setting.


A variety of targeted molecules are now available as treatment options in the management of GI cancers. Most are aimed at growth inhibition by acting on cell surface targets or intracellular pathways. Treatment paradigms are gradually shifting towards more prevalent use of systemic treatment prior to surgical intervention for operable disease with the aim of tumour downsizing and improved rates of long-term cure.


A large number of ongoing clinical trials are evaluating novel targeted agents as neoadjuvant therapy in operable GI tumours. Therefore, further progress in the management of early-stage disease will undoubtedly be made over the next few years as these trials continue to report potentially practice-changing results. Copyright © 2012 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.