FcgammaRIIIa polymorphisms and cetuximab induced cytotoxicity in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2009 Jul;58(7):997-1006. doi: 10.1007/s00262-008-0613-3. Epub 2008 Nov 1.


Purpose: The interaction of Fc fragments of antibodies with the Fcgamma receptors is an essential checkpoint in antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). Specific polymorphisms at position 158 enhance FcgammaRIIIa affinity for IgG1 and are associated with improved clinical outcome in lymphoma patients treated with IgG1 anti-CD20 antibody. The role of ADCC in the therapeutic effects of the alpha-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mAb, cetuximab, in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) is poorly defined. We employed three SCCHN cell lines to test two hypotheses: (1) SCCHN is susceptible to cetuximab-mediated ADCC, (2) efficacy of ADCC is associated with polymorphisms at position 158 of FcgammaRIIIa.

Experimental design: FcgammaRIIIa-158 polymorphisms were determined for healthy donors, and their purified NK cells were used as effector cells against three SCCHN cell lines in ADCC assays. Cytotoxicity levels were compared for each polymorphism class. Proliferation and cell cycle assays were done to examine the direct effects of cetuximab.

Results: Our results indicate that SCCHN is susceptible to cetuximab-mediated ADCC in vitro. NK cytotoxic efficiency correlates with donor 158-polymorphisms in FcgammaRIIIa. Overall cytotoxicity was greatest for individuals having a single V allele when compared to homozygous F/F individuals; the cumulative percent cytotoxicity for each polymorphism among the cell lines was 58.2% V/V, 50.6% V/F, and 26.1% F/F (P < 0.001). Additionally, the presence of a V allele correlated with superior natural cytotoxicity against NK sensitive targets.

Conclusion: These data have both prognostic and therapeutic relevance and support the design of a prospective trial to determine the influence of FcgammaRIIIa polymorphisms on the clinical outcome of patients with SCCHN treated with alpha-EGFR mAbs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antibody-Dependent Cell Cytotoxicity / genetics*
  • Antibody-Dependent Cell Cytotoxicity / immunology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / immunology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cetuximab
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Receptors, IgG / genetics*
  • Receptors, IgG / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • FCGR3A protein, human
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Cetuximab