Purpose: To determine the efficacy and safety profiles of erlotinib in patients with advanced recurrent and/or metastatic squamous cell cancer of the head and neck (HNSCC).
Patients and methods: Patients with locally recurrent and/or metastatic HNSCC, regardless of their HER1/EGFR status, were treated with erlotinib at an initial dose of 150 mg daily. Dose reductions or escalations were allowed based on tolerability of erlotinib.
Results: One-hundred fifteen patients were enrolled onto this study. Forty-seven percent of patients received erlotinib at 150 mg daily throughout the entire study, 6% had dose escalations, and 46% required dose reductions and/or interruptions. Five patients achieved partial responses on study, for an overall objective response rate of 4.3% (95% CI, 1.4% to 9.9%). Disease stabilization was maintained in 44 patients (38.3%) for a median duration of 16.1 weeks. The median progression-free survival was 9.6 weeks (95% CI, 8.1 to 12.1 weeks), and the median overall survival was 6.0 months (95% CI, 4.8 to 7.0 months). Subgroup analyses revealed a significant difference in overall survival favoring patients who developed at least grade 2 skin rashes versus those who did not (P =.045), whereas no difference was detected based on HER1/EGFR expression. Rash and diarrhea were the most common drug-related toxicities, encountered in 79% and 37% of patients, respectively, though the severity was mild to moderate in most cases.
Conclusion: Erlotinib was well tolerated in this heavily pretreated HNSCC population and produced prolonged disease stabilization; hence, further evaluation of its role in this tumor type is warranted.