Purpose: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of the epidermal growth factor receptor-directed monoclonal antibody cetuximab administered as a single agent in patients with recurrent and/or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) who experience disease progression on platinum therapy.
Patients and methods: An open-label multicenter study in which patients with disease progression on two to six cycles of platinum therapy received single-agent cetuximab (initial dose 400 mg/m2 followed by subsequent weekly doses of 250 mg/m2) for > or = 6 weeks (single-agent phase). Patients who experienced disease progression could receive salvage therapy with cetuximab plus platinum (combination-therapy phase). From June 2001 to December 2002, 103 patients were enrolled and treated with cetuximab, 53 of whom subsequently received combination therapy.
Results: In the single-agent phase, response rate was 13%, disease control rate (complete response/partial response/stable disease) was 46%, and median time to progression (TTP) was 70 days. During the combination-therapy phase, the objective response rate was zero, disease control rate was 26%, and TTP was 50 days. Median overall survival was 178 days. Treatment was well tolerated. The most common cetuximab-related adverse events in the single-agent phase were skin reactions, particularly rash (49% of patients, mainly grade 1 or 2). There was one treatment-related death due to an infusion-related reaction.
Conclusion: Single-agent cetuximab was active and generally well tolerated in the treatment of recurrent and/or metastatic SCCHN that progressed on platinum therapy. Response was comparable to that seen with cetuximab plus platinum combination regimens in the same setting.