Cetuximab in the treatment of head and neck cancer: preliminary results outside clinical trials
Didier Dequanter, Mohammad Shahla, Pascal Paulus, Phillippe Lothaire
Department of Head and Neck Surgery, CHU Charleroi, Montigny le Tilleul, Belgium
Introduction: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the clinical efficacy in our daily practice, outside clinical trials, of cetuximab plus radiotherapy in a majority of treatment-naive patients with locoregionally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.
Methods: A retrospective study was performed to evaluate outcomes in patients who were treated definitively with cetuximab and radiotherapy (ExRT). Patients with stage III or IV, nonmetastatic, measurable squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) were eligible.
Results: There were 18 males and two females. The median age was 61 years (range from 49 to 87 years old). Concurrent radiotherapy and cetuximab was used, in first line, in 17 patients with locally advanced disease; two patients with recurrent SCCHN, who were intolerant of Cisplatin-based regimens, were treated with radiotherapy combined with weekly cetuximab; and 1 patient received cetuximab and radiotherapy postoperatively. The median time of response was 10 months (range from 2 to 24 months). A partial response was observed in 11 cases; a complete response in nine cases. The occurrence of grade 2–3 skin toxicity was observed in 11 cases. Skin toxicity was clearly correlated with a better response and the duration of the response to the treatment. The use of cetuximab in combination with radiotherapy does not increase the side effects of radiotherapy. At the end of the follow-up, 17 patients died.
Conclusion: Cetuximab, with its highly targeted mechanism of action and synergistic activity with current treatment modalities, is a valuable treatment option in head and neck patients. The effect of the epidermal growth factor receptor antagonist occurs without any change in the pattern and the severity of toxicity usually associated with head and neck radiation. Cetuximab seems not to provide the most benefit for patients with oropharyngeal cancers but will in patients with T4 tumors. However, the median duration of local control was less as described in the clinical trials.
Keywords: head and neck cancer, epidermal growth factor receptor antagonist, radiotherapy, clinical trials
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