Head and neck: Cetuximab, chemo, radiotherapy

14 Sep 2008

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and cetuximab for head and neck cancer

A phase II Italian trial has shown promise for the treatment of locally advanced head and neck cancers with an alternating regimen of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, plus cetuximab.

The trial of 45 patients combined chemotherapy with fluorouracil and carboplatin given on weeks 1, 4 and 7 of treatment, with radiotherapy administered daily on weeks 2-3, 5-6 and 8-10. Cetuximab was also added weekly. “Both complete response rate and long-term results compare favourably with the best reported in the literature,” Dr. Marco Merlano from the S. Croce General Hospital, Cuneo, Spain, explained. 30 patients experienced a skin toxicity that the authors attribute to an interaction between the treatments, and 2 patients died from toxicities.

Though the toxicities are a problem, the researchers claim that the increase in toxicity is in an area that can be easily managed.

ESMO President Jose Baselga described the trial as a “poster child of combination therapy”: “This is a whole new ball game of cetuximab with radiotherapy and chemotherapy, with a much higher cure rate – these are very encouraging results”.