We incorporated cetuximab, a chimeric monoclonal antibody against the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), into the induction therapy and subsequent chemoradiotherapy of head and neck cancer (HNC).
Patients and Methods
Patients with locally advanced HNC, including squamous and undifferentiated histologies, were treated with docetaxel 75 mg/m2 day 1, cisplatin 75 mg/m2 day 1, and cetuximab 250 mg/m2 days 1, 8, and 15 (after an initial loading dose of 400 mg/m2), termed TPE, repeated every 21 days for three cycles, followed by radiotherapy with concurrent cisplatin 30 mg/m2 and cetuximab weekly (XPE), and maintenance cetuximab for 6 months. Quality of life (QOL) was assessed using Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy–Head and Neck. In situ hybridization (ISH) for human papillomavirus (HPV), immunohistochemistry for p16, and fluorescence ISH for EGFR gene copy number were performed on tissue microarrays.
Of 39 enrolled patients, 36 had stage IV disease and 23 an oropharyngeal primary. Acute toxicities during TPE included neutropenic fever (10%) and during XPE, grade 3 or 4 oral mucositis (54%) and hypomagnesemia (39%). With a median follow-up of 36 months, 3-year progression-free survival and overall survival were 70% and 74%, respectively. Eight patients progressed in locoregional sites, three in distant, and one in both. HPV positivity was not associated with treatment efficacy. No progression-free patient remained G-tube dependent. The H&N subscale QOL scores showed a significant decrement at 3 months after XPE, which normalized at 1 year.
This cetuximab-containing regimen resulted in excellent long-term survival and safety, and warrants further evaluation in both HPV-positive and -negative HNC.