FCGR2A-H131R and FCGR3A-V157F are single-nucleotide polymorphisms known to influence the outcome of patients treated with rituximab, cetuximab and trastuzumab. We investigated the impact of these polymorphisms on the clinical outcome of 103 patients with recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck treated with a platinum compound, fluorouracil and cetuximab as palliative first-line therapy. The survival of patients with FCGR2A-131H/H and/or FCGR3A-157V/V genotypes was significantly longer compared with patients carrying 131R and 157F alleles (median progression-free survival (PFS): 5.5 vs 4.1 months, P=0.02; median overall survival: 10.2 vs 7.2 months, P=0.04). In multivariate analysis, the FCGR2A and 3A genotypes as well as the time between initial diagnosis and relapse of disease not amenable to curative therapy remained the only independent prognostic factors for PFS. The results are in line with previous reports in colorectal cancer patients and confirm the possible value of genetic polymorphisms of immunocompetent cells for the success of cetuximab treatment.