Targeting epidermal growth factor receptor signaling in the treatment of head and neck cancer

Igor Astsaturov, Roger B. Cohen, Paul Harari

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


In this review, key aspects of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) biology and the fruitful translation of these fundamental findings into recent treatment advances in head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC) are highlighted. In contrast to a number of contemporary reviews of the EGFR, many of which focus on colorectal and nonsmall cell lung cancer, this review discusses the EGFR as a validated therapeutic target in HNSCC. Recent data confirm a survival advantage for the addition of the anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody cetuximab to definitive radiation therapy in locoregionally advanced HNSCC patients, as well as palliative benefits for patients with incurable recurrent and metastatic HNSCC. Small-molecule EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors also show considerable promise in this disease, both alone and in combination with radiation and chemotherapy. Both classes of anti-EGFR agent are generally well tolerated, with side effects (notably skin rash) that are distinct from the toxicities of conventional chemotherapy. Ongoing clinical trials will more clearly define the role for EGFR inhibitors in all treatment phases of HNSCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1179-1193
Number of pages15
JournalExpert Review of Anticancer Therapy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Cetuximab
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Radiation
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitor


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