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Phase II multicenter study of the epidermal growth factor receptor antibody cetuximab and cisplatin for recurrent and refractory squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

PURPOSE: This multicenter phase II study was undertaken to define the efficacy and safety of cetuximab, an antiepidermal growth factor receptor chimeric human and murine monoclonal antibody, administered with cisplatin to patients with refractory metastatic or recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).

PATIENTS AND METHODS: One hundred thirty-two patients were to receive two 3-week cycles with cisplatin/paclitaxel or cisplatin/fluorouracil. Patients (n = 30) with a complete or partial response continued standard therapy. Seventy-six patients with stable disease (SD; n = 51) or progressive disease (PD/1; n = 25) received combination therapy with cetuximab (400 mg/m2 intravenously on day 1, then 250 mg/m2/wk) and cisplatin (75 or 100 mg/m2 intravenously on day 1 every 3 weeks). The protocol was subsequently amended to enroll patients who had developed PD within 90 days after platinum-based therapy (PD/2; n = 54).

RESULTS: Five patients (20%) in PD/1, three patients (6%) in PD/2, and nine patients (18%) with SD achieved an objective response. Median duration of response was 4.2, 4.1, and 7.4 months for the PD/1, PD/2, and SD groups, respectively, with median overall survival times of 6.1, 4.3, and 11.7 months. The most common toxicities were anemia, acne-like skin rash, leukopenia, fatigue and malaise, and nausea and vomiting. Seven patients (5%) developed a grade 3 or 4 hypersensitivity reaction to cetuximab.

CONCLUSION: Cetuximab and cisplatin is an active regimen in refractory SCCHN. The relative contribution of cetuximab is better defined in a single-agent trial. Cetuximab did not exacerbate cisplatin toxicity but was associated with skin rash in a majority of patients and occasional serious allergic reactions. Further study of this compound is warranted.

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