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Published on 26 January 2012

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Phase III trials begin of afatinib in head and neck cancer

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Two Phase III clinical trials have been initiated to evaluate afatinib in patients with metastatic and recurrent head and neck cancer, and in patients with locally advanced disease, respectively.

Afatinib is an irreversible ErbB Family Blocker which inhibits signal transduction of all kinase receptors from the ErbB Family, and plays a critical role in the growth and spread of the most pervasive cancers and cancers associated with high mortality (lung, breast, and head & neck cancers).

Over-expression of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR, also referred to as ErbB1) 1 is found in at least 90% of head and neck cancers and strongly correlates with poor prognosis and overall survival.

Positive results from a recently presented Phase II study show that afatinib is the first targeted therapy with at least comparable anti-tumour activity to cetuximab in patients with metastatic head and neck cancer whose cancer has returned after treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy.

Each year, approximately 560,000 cases of head and neck cancer are diagnosed worldwide, and 300,000 patients die annually.

For patients with recurrent/metastatic disease, treatment options include systemic chemotherapy.

Despite the introduction of chemotherapy in this setting approximately 30 years ago, patients with recurrent/metastatic head and neck cancer still have a poor prognosis, with a median survival of only 6-10 months.

In locally advanced head and neck cancer, chemoradiotherapy is an important option. However, due to high recurrence rates, patients with locally advanced disease tend to also have a poor prognosis.

“Currently, approximately 50% of patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer will have a recurrence and there is an urgent need for more treatment options” said Dr Ezra Cohen, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

“We hope potential new treatments such as afatinib will increase the effective options for patients with head and neck cancer.”

LUX-Head & Neck 1 will evaluate, if afatinib can prolong progression-free survival (primary endpoint) and improve overall survival in patients with recurrent/metastatic head and neck cancer who progress after platinum-based treatment.

LUX-Head & Neck 2 will evaluate, if afatinib can prevent the recurrence of the disease and improve overall survival in patients with locally advanced disease after chemoradiotherapy.

Boehringer Ingelheim



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