Randomized Phase II Trial of Ficlatuzumab With or Without Cetuximab in Pan-Refractory, Recurrent/Metastatic Head and Neck Cancer

Julie E. Bauman, Nabil F. Saba, Denise Roe, Jessica R. Bauman, John Kaczmar, Aarti Bhatia, Jameel Muzaffar, Ricklie Julian, Steven Wang, Shethal Bearelly, Audrey Baker, Conor Steuer, Anshu Giri, Barbara Burtness, Sara Centuori, Carlos Caulin, Robert Klein, Kathylynn Saboda, Stefanie Obara, Christine H. Chung

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5 Scopus citations


PURPOSEPrimary or acquired resistance to cetuximab, an antiepidermal growth factor receptor monoclonal antibody (mAb), minimizes its utility in recurrent/metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Aberrant hepatocyte growth factor/cMet pathway activation is an established resistance mechanism. Dual pathway targeting may overcome resistance.PATIENTS AND METHODSThis multicenter, randomized, noncomparative phase II study evaluated ficlatuzumab, an antihepatocyte growth factor mAb, with or without cetuximab in recurrent/metastatic HNSCC. The primary end point was median progression-free survival (PFS); an arm met significance criteria if the lower bound of the 90% CI excluded the historical control of 2 months. Key eligibility criteria were HNSCC with known human papillomavirus (HPV) status, cetuximab resistance (progression within 6 months of exposure in the definitive or recurrent/metastatic setting), and resistance to platinum and anti-PD-1 mAb. Secondary end points included objective response rate (ORR), toxicity, and the association of HPV status and cMet overexpression with efficacy. Continuous Bayesian futility monitoring was used.RESULTSFrom 2018 to 2020, 60 patients were randomly assigned and 58 were treated. Twenty-seven versus 33 patients were allocated to monotherapy versus combination. Arms were balanced for major prognostic factors. The monotherapy arm closed early for futility. The combination arm met prespecified significance criteria with a median PFS of 3.7 months (lower bound 90% CI, 2.3 months; P =.04); the ORR was 6 of 32 (19%), including two complete and four partial responses. Exploratory analyses were limited to the combination arm: the median PFS was 2.3 versus 4.1 months (P =.03) and the ORR was 0 of 16 (0%) versus 6 of 16 (38%; P =.02) in the HPV-positive versus HPV-negative subgroups, respectively. cMet overexpression was associated with reduced hazard of progression in HPV-negative but not HPV-positive disease (P interaction =.02).CONCLUSIONThe ficlatuzumab-cetuximab arm met significance criteria for PFS and warrants phase III development. HPV-negative HNSCC merits consideration as a selection criterion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3851-3862
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal/therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols/therapeutic use
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cetuximab
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local/pathology
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck/drug therapy


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