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Survival in patients with advanced head and neck cancer is prolonged by adding cetuximab to radiation therapy, according to a report published online first in The Lancet Oncology.
It concludes that as improvement persists for up to five years, it should now be considered as a standard treatment option.
The report notes that most head and neck cancers express the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and that cetuximab is a monoclonal antibody that specifically targets EGFR.
Trials show that patients treated with cetuximab had a 13% improvement in disease control and 10% in survival at three years without increased side effects.
Overall, findings showed an improvement in absolute survival of about 9% in patients given cetuximab compared with those given radiotherapy alone (36.4% vs 45.6%) at five years.
The report says: “Future studies will be designed to help provide a pathway to individualised patient treatments. The analysis of molecular markers … will help refine our ability to select the patients who will benefit from the various systemic treatments to radiotherapy.”
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The Lancet Oncology