Concomitant platinum-based chemotherapy or cetuximab with radiotherapy for locally advanced head and neck cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies

Oral Oncol. 2014 Nov;50(11):1041-8. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2014.08.005. Epub 2014 Aug 28.


The combinations of radiotherapy (RT) plus chemotherapy (CTRT) with cisplatin or, alternatively, RT plus cetuximab (RT+CET), are the treatments of choice for locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC). We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies reporting the efficacy of these 2 combined modality therapies for the treatment of locoregionally advanced HNSCC. We performed a systematic search of PUBMED, EMBASE, Web of Science, SCOPUS, and the Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials. Meta-analysis was performed using the fixed- or random-effects models. The primary endpoints were 2-year overall survival (OS), 2-year progression-free survival (PFS), and 2-year locoregional relapse (LRR), reported as risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Fifteen trials, including a total of 1808 patients, were analysed. Three of these trials were prospective, and 12 were retrospective. Overall, for locally advanced HNSCC, concomitant CTRT significantly improved 2-year OS (RR=0.66; 95% CI, 0.46-0.94; P=0.02), 2-year PFS (RR=0.68; 95% CI, 0.53-0.87; P=0.002), and 2-year LRR (RR=0.63; 95% CI, 0.45-0.87; P=0.005) compared to RT+CET. For the treatment of locally advanced HNSCC, platinum-based CTRT is associated with a better OS and PFS compared to RT+CET, and this is probably attributed to improved locoregional disease control. Thus, platinum-based CTRT should remain the standard of care until equivalence with RT+CET can be prospectively demonstrated.

Keywords: Cetuximab; Chemoradiotherapy; Cisplatin; Head and neck cancer; Locally advanced; Overall survival.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • Cetuximab
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / therapeutic use*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Organoplatinum Compounds
  • Cetuximab