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J Clin Oncol. 2005 Dec 1;23(34):8646-54.

Phase III randomized trial of cisplatin plus placebo compared with cisplatin plus cetuximab in metastatic/recurrent head and neck cancer: an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group study.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Clin Oncol. 2006 Feb 1;24(4):724.



Therapy of recurrent/metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck results in median progression-free survival (PFS) of 2 months. These cancers are rich in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). We wished to determine whether the addition of cetuximab, which inhibits activation of EGFR, would improve PFS.


Patients with recurrent/metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck were randomly assigned to receive cisplatin every 4 weeks, with weekly cetuximab (arm A) or placebo (arm B). Tumor tissue was assayed for EGFR expression by immunohistochemistry. The primary end point was PFS. Secondary end points of interest were response rate, toxicity, overall survival, and correlation of EGFR with clinical end points.


There were 117 analyzable patients enrolled. Median PFS was 2.7 months for arm B and 4.2 months for arm A. The hazard ratio for progression of arm A to arm B was 0.78 (95% CI, 0.54 to 1.12). Median overall survival was 8.0 months for arm B and 9.2 months for arm A (P = .21). The hazard ratio for survival by skin toxicity in cetuximab-treated patients was 0.42 (95% CI, 0.21 to 0.86). Objective response rate was 26% [corrected] for arm A and 10% [corrected] for arm B (P = .03). Enhancement of response was greater for patients with EGFR staining present in less than 80% of cells.


Addition of cetuximab to cisplatin significantly improves response rate. There was a survival advantage for the development of rash. Progression-free and overall survival were not significantly improved by the addition of cetuximab in this study.

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