Background: Standard treatment of advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) is concurrent chemoradiation. Erlotinib is an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor, which has shown activity in SCCHN. Phase I study aims to determine the maximum tolerated dose and dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) of adding erlotinib to chemoradiation therapy in patients with surgically resected locally advanced SCCHN.
Patients and methods: Inclusion criteria--SCCHN patients with T3 or T4 primary lesion (except T3N0 with negative resection margins); pathologic N2-N3 disease; poor prognostic findings; age 18-70 years; Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of zero to one; no evidence of metastasis; adequate organic function and written informed consent. Study design--dose-escalating phase I study with three cohorts of three to six patients each that received increasing doses of erlotinib (100-150 mg/day p.o.) and cisplatin (30-40 mg/m(2) i.v., day 1) for 7 weeks. Radiotherapy--standard regimen of 1.8 Gy daily (5 fractions/week) to a maximum total dose of 63 Gy in 7 weeks.
Results: Thirteen male (median age: 57 years) were enrolled. Overall, the regimen was well tolerated. Two of three patients treated at dose level III (erlotinib: 150 mg/day; cisplatin: 40 mg/m(2)) developed DLT consisting of grade 3 infection and grade 3 mucositis. Other toxic effects included diarrhea, asthenia, and rash. Recommended dose for additional studies: erlotinib 150 mg/day p.o.; cisplatin 30 mg/m(2)/week i.v.
Conclusion: Erlotinib can be safely combined with chemoradiation without requiring dose reduction of chemo- or radiotherapy in this postsurgical population.