Phase I Study of Ficlatuzumab and Cetuximab in Cetuximab-Resistant, Recurrent/Metastatic Head and Neck Cancer

Cancers (Basel). 2020 Jun 11;12(6):1537. doi: 10.3390/cancers12061537.


Cetuximab, an anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody (mAb), is approved for advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) but benefits a minority. An established tumor-intrinsic resistance mechanism is cross-talk between the EGFR and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)/cMet pathways. Dual pathway inhibition may overcome cetuximab resistance. This Phase I study evaluated the combination of cetuximab and ficlatuzumab, an anti-HGF mAb, in patients with recurrent/metastatic HNSCC. The primary objective was to establish the recommended Phase II dose (RP2D). Secondary objectives included overall response rate (ORR), progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS). Mechanistic tumor-intrinsic and immune biomarkers were explored. Thirteen patients enrolled with no dose-limiting toxicities observed at any dose tier. Three evaluable patients were treated at Tier 1 and nine at Tier 2, which was determined to be the RP2D (cetuximab 500 mg/m2 and ficlatuzumab 20 mg/kg every 2 weeks). Median PFS and OS were 5.4 (90% CI = 1.9-11.4) and 8.9 (90% CI = 2.7-15.2) months, respectively, with a confirmed ORR of 2 of 12 (17%; 90% CI = 6-40%). High circulating soluble cMet levels correlated with poor survival. An increase in peripheral T cells, particularly the CD8+ subset, was associated with treatment response whereas progression was associated with expansion of a distinct myeloid population. This well-tolerated combination demonstrated promising activity in cetuximab-resistant, advanced HNSCC.

Keywords: EGFR; HGF; HNSCC; cMet; cetuximab; ficlatuzumab.