Cetuximab in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck

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Surgery and radiotherapy are the standard treatment options for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). Chemotherapy and chemoradiotherapy are new alternatives for locally advanced disease, particularly induction chemotherapy for patients with unresectable tumors. In recurrent/metastatic disease and after progression to platin-based regimens, no treatments other than best supportive care are currently available. Most SCCHN tumors overexpress the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). This is a tyrosine kinase membrane receptor and has a clear implication in angiogenesis, tumor progression and resistance to different cancer treatments. Cetuximab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to EGFR and alters the tyrosine kinase-mediated signal transduction pathway. The drug is active in colon cancer and is currently being tested in SCCHN patients. For locally advanced disease, cetuximab/radiotherapy combination has demonstrated a benefit in survival when compared with radiotherapy alone as radical treatment. Cetuximab is an active treatment in platin-refractory patients with recurrent/metastatic disease.

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