Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors have demonstrated efficacy in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). In addition to EGFR, other ErbB family members are expressed and activated in SCCHN. Afatinib is an ErbB family blocker that has been approved for treating patients with EGFR-mutated nonsmall cell lung cancer. We sought to determine the efficacy of afatinib in preclinical models and compare this to other EGFR-targeted agents. Afatinib efficacy was characterized in a panel of ten SCCHN cell lines and found to be most effective against cell lines amplified for EGFR. Afatinib had lower IC(50) values than did gefitinib against the same panel. Two EGFR-amplified cell lines that are resistant to gefitinib are sensitive to afatinib. Cetuximab was not found to have a synergistic effect with afatinib either in vitro or in vivo. Both afatinib and cetuximab were effective in tumor xenograft model. Afatinib is an effective agent in SCCHN especially in models with EGFR amplification.
Keywords: Afatinib; Cetuximab; Epidermal growth factor receptor; Gefitinib; Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.