, Volume 12, Issue 8, pp 533-542
Date: 01 Oct 2010

Progress in metastatic colorectal cancer: growing role of cetuximab to optimize clinical outcome

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Abstract

The prognosis of metastatic colorectal cancer remains poor despite advances made in recent years, particularly with new treatments directed towards molecular targets. Cetuximab, a chimeric immunoglobulin (Ig)G1 monoclonal antibody that targets the ligand-binding domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), is active in metastatic colorectal cancer. As an IgG1 antibody, cetuximab may exert its antitumour efficacy through both EGFR antagonism and antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity. The benefits of cetuximab in metastatic colorectal cancer are well documented in clinical trials and are acknowledged in the approval and licensing of this agent. There is evidence of the role of cetuximab not only in irinotecan-refractory or heavily pretreated patients, but also of the efficacy and safety of the addition of this agent to FOLFIRI (irinotecan/5-fluorouracil/leucovorin) in first-line metastatic colorectal cancer, with an enhanced effect in 5-fluorouracil patients with Kirsten rat sarcoma (KRAS) wild-type tumours. In these patients, a recent meta-analysis of the pooled Cetuximab Combined with Irinotecan in First-Line Therapy for Metastatic Colorectal Cancer (CRYSTAL) and Oxaliplatin and Cetuximab in First-Line Treatment of mCRC (OPUS) patient populations confirms that the addition of cetuximab to first-line chemotherapy achieves a statistically significant improvement in the best overall response, overall survival time, and progression-free survival (PSF) compared with chemotherapy alone. In nonresectable colorectal liver metastases, cetuximab plus FOLFOX-6 (oxaliplatin/5-fluorouracil/leucovorin) or cetuximab plus FOLFIRI increased significantly resectability of liver metastases, including R0 resections. Also, preliminary data indicate that cetuximab can be administered in a more convenient 2-week schedule in combination with standard chemotherapy. Cetuximab is generally well tolerated. Acne-form rash is the most frequent toxicity. Up to the present time, the results obtained with targeted therapy combinations are not as encouraging as initially expected. The identification of biomarkers associated with disease control, including KRAS and BRAF mutation status in patients treated with cetuximab, is changing the current management of metastatic colorectal cancer. Clinical and molecular predictive markers of response are under active evaluation in order to better select patients who could benefit from cetuximab treatment, with the aim of both optimising patient outcomes and avoiding unnecessary toxicities.