Evolving role of cetuximab in the treatment of colorectal cancer
Gunter Schuch, Sebastian Kobold, Carsten Bokemeyer
Department of Oncology, Hematology, and Bone Marrow Transplantation with Section of Pneumology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
Abstract: In recent years, the monoclonal epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeting antibody cetuximab was introduced into systemic therapy of colorectal cancer and gained an established role in the treatment of this disease. Cetuximab was shown to be active as a single agent in chemorefractory metastatic disease as well as in combination with varying chemotherapies. Recently, randomized trials demonstrated the activity of cetuximab combinations in the first-line setting of metastatic colorectal cancer. Interestingly, the activity of cetuximab was restricted to patients with KRAS wildtype tumors, as was seen with panitumumab, another EGFR antibody. While 60%–70% of tumors harbor KRAS wildtype genes, 30%–40% of tumors express oncogenic KRAS with mutations in codons 12 and 13 causing constitutive activation of signaling cascades downstream of EGFR and resistance to EGFR blockade. Since proof of KRAS wildtype status became a prerequisite for cetuximab treatment, KRAS testing is being established throughout the world. Future trials will address the question which part of the KRAS wildtype cohort will benefit from EGFR inhibition and how to identify those patients. Additionally, new strategies for treatment of KRAS mutated tumors are strongly needed. Recent developments and future strategies will be summarized.
Keywords: cetuximab, colorectal cancer, KRAS
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