The role of cetuximab in the management of head and neck cancers
INTRODUCTION: The standard of care for patients with locally-advanced head and neck cancer is chemoradiation or surgical resection followed by radiation treatment with or without chemotherapy and despite aggressive, multimodality therapies with their associated toxicities, attempts are being made to improve efficacy while reducing toxicity. Cetuximab is a chimeric mAb directed against the EGFR that showed clinical activity in squamous cell carcinoma of head and neck (SCCHN). AREAS COVERED: Cetuximab is beneficial in recurrent and metastatic setting, as well as in the definitive setting. In a landmark study by Bonner et al., cetuximab was found to be effective in prolonging survival in conjunction with radiation treatment in locally-advanced tumors versus radiation therapy alone. The Erbitux in First-Line Treatment of Recurrent or Metastatic Head and Neck Cancer (EXTREME) trial also showed an improvement in conjunction with chemotherapy in recurrent and metastatic tumors. EXPERT OPINION: Cetuximab is an important therapeutic option in SSCHN, and will continue to be used in metastatic and definitive settings. While cetuximab is a valuable tool in the treatment of SCCHN, more studies are needed to maximize the efficacy of this mAb in clinical settings and to identify the subpopulation of patients that truly benefit from its use.
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