Objective: This study set out to determine if cetuximab treatment increases the risk of wound healing complications when combined with radiation therapy.
Method: We performed a retrospective chart review of head and neck cancer patients who received salvage neck dissections between 1999 and 2007, at two academic tertiary care centres. Complications from wound healing were compared between radiation and combined therapy groups.
Results: A total of 35 patients received radiation (n=20) or combined radiation and cetuximab therapy (n=15) prior to neck dissection. The treatment groups were similar in regard to demographic and primary tumour-related characteristics. The time between treatment and salvage neck dissection did not differ between the radiation (3.9 months) and combination treatment (3.0 months) groups (p=0.15). Wound healing complications occurred in 13% (2/15) of the patients treated with radiation and cetuximab and there were no complications in patients who received radiation alone (p=0.20).
Conclusion: Cetuximab did not significantly increase the risk of post-surgical wound complications, although a higher absolute number of wound complications was observed in the group treated with cetuximab and radiation therapy, compared with the group treated with radiation alone.
Conflict of interest: This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Health (2T32 CA091078-06). One of the authors, JAB, is an occasional consultant and honoraria for ImClone and Bristol-Meyers Squibb.