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Eur J Cancer. 2010 Jul;46(11):1979-89. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.05.015. Epub 2010 Jun 17.

Cetuximab in the management of locoregionally advanced head and neck cancer: expanding the treatment options?

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Institut Gustave Roussy, 39 rue Camille Desmoulins, Villejuif 94805, France.


The treatment of locoregionally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) has evolved in recent years as a consequence of a better understanding of the potential benefits associated with altered radiation fractionation regimens, concurrently administered chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy) and induction chemotherapy. Concurrent chemoradiotherapy is a treatment option for technically resectable disease, where functional morbidity precludes the use of surgery. Induction chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy may also be used in this setting, and has been validated for larynx preservation. Concurrent chemoradiotherapy is a standard treatment approach for medically fit patients with locoregionally advanced unresectable disease. However, the toxicity burden of additional chemotherapy in both the concurrent chemoradiotherapy and induction chemotherapy settings can have implications for treatment compliance and may impede the administration of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy to schedule. The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeted IgG1 monoclonal antibody, cetuximab (Erbitux), has shown significant clinical benefits in the treatment of both locoregionally advanced and recurrent and/or metastatic SCCHN. A phase III study in locoregionally advanced disease demonstrated significant improvements in locoregional control and progression-free and overall survival with cetuximab plus radiotherapy compared with radiotherapy alone, and overall survival benefits were maintained at 5 years. The addition of cetuximab to concurrent chemoradiotherapy has been shown to be feasible in phase II trials and is being investigated in phase III trials. Preliminary evidence suggests that cetuximab could be incorporated into induction management strategies. Taken together, these data support an important role for cetuximab in the treatment paradigm for locoregionally advanced SCCHN.

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