The Role of Inhibitors of the Epidermal Growth Factor in Management of Head and Neck Cancer

Authors: Bruce Brockstein MDa, Mario Lacouture MDa, and Mark Agulnik MDa
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  • a From the Division of Hematology/Oncology, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and Department of Medicine, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, and Division of Hematology/Oncology, Deptartment of Medicine, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Evanston, Illinois.
  • | 2 Medical/Scientific Editor, Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network
Editor: Kerrin G. Robinson MA2
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  • a From the Division of Hematology/Oncology, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and Department of Medicine, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, and Division of Hematology/Oncology, Deptartment of Medicine, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Evanston, Illinois.
  • | 2 Medical/Scientific Editor, Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is overexpressed in most head and neck cancers and correlates with poor prognosis. In the past few years, numerous clinical trials for head and neck cancer have tested monoclonal antibodies against EGFRs and small molecule inhibitors of EGFR tyrosine kinase. Results led to FDA approval of cetuximab with concomitant radiotherapy for treating locally or regionally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN), and as a single agent in patients with recurrent or metastatic SCCHN for whom prior platinum-based therapy failed. This article reviews the biology of EGFR as it pertains to head and neck cancer, including the important clinical trials of EGFR monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors in SCCHN, alone and with concomitant radiotherapy. Molecular and clinical markers of response and outcome are also discussed.

Correspondence: Bruce Brockstein, MD, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, Division of Hematology/Oncology, 2650 Ridge Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201. E-mail: b-brockstein@northwestern.edu

Disclosure: Kerrin G. Robinson, MA, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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