Professor Eric Van Cutsem told a news briefing today (Thursday 30 September) at the EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics that a trial, conducted in Belgium and the USA, had demonstrated that the more severe the rash the better the patients' tumours had responded to the treatment and the longer was their median survival.
Professor Van Cutsem, who is head of the Digestive Oncology Unit and Professor of Medicine at University Hospital Gasthuisberg in Leuven, said 346 patients with advanced colorectal cancer were treated in the study in Leuven and other Belgian and U.S. centres.
All the patients had metastatic cancer and had failed to respond to at least two prior chemotherapy regimens, although all still had a reasonable quality of life, either being fully active or at least still able to carry out light work.
Cetuximab, also known as Erbitux, is a new targeted treatment a monoclonal antibody designed to home in selectively on a protein called the epidermal growth factor (EGFR). EGFR is found on the surface of some cells and plays a role in regulating cell growth. Cetuximab interferes with the growth of cancer cells by binding to EGFR. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the USA for use with the cancer drug irinotecan for colorectal cancer that has failed other treatments. It is also the first monoclonal antibody targeting EGFR to have gained marketing authorisation in Europe and is now being evaluated in first-line treatment of colorectal cancer, with promising results.
Professor Van Cutsem said that the acne-like rash was also a side effect of other EGFR inhibitors but it was not
Contact: Margaret Willson
European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer