Recurrent and/or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) continues to be a source of significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Agents that target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have demonstrated beneficial effects in this setting. Cetuximab, a monoclonal antibody against the EGFR, improves locoregional control and overall survival when used as a radiation sensitizer in patients with locoregionally advanced HNSCC undergoing definitive radiation therapy with curative intent. Cetuximab is also active as monotherapy in patients whose cancer has progressed on platinum-containing therapy. In the first-line setting for incurable HNSCC, cetuximab added to platinum-based chemotherapy significantly improves overall survival compared with standard chemotherapy alone. These positive results have had a significant impact on the standard of care for advanced HNSCC. In this review, we will discuss the mechanism of action, clinical data and common toxicities that pertain to the use of cetuximab in the treatment of advanced incurable HNSCC.
Keywords: cetuximab, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, epidermal growth factor receptor