Clinical Oncology and Cancer Research

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 207–214

Efficacy and immune mechanisms of cetuximab for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer

  • Hao Zhuang
  • Zhen-yi Xue
  • Lu Wang
  • Xiao-yan Li
  • Ning Zhang
  • Rong-xin Zhang


Cetuximab is a chimeric immunoglobulin G1 monoclonal antibody that targets the ligand-binding domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor and inhibits downstream intracellular signals. Research has shown that cetuximab can stimulate the autoimmune system and produce antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity and complement-dependent cytotoxicity reactions, which can recruit cytotoxic lymphocytes to attack and kill cancer cells. Cetuximab is mainly indicated for patients with epidermal growth factor receptor-positive metastatic colorectal cancer who fail to respond to both irinotecan- and oxaliplatin-based regimens. The efficacy and safety of cetuximab as monotherapy or in combination with other treatment options were evaluated in a series of phase II and phase III trials. Identifying the clinical and molecular markers that can predict which patient groups may best benefit from cetuximab treatment is key to improving patient outcomes and avoiding unnecessary toxicities and costs. Herein, we discuss the mechanisms of action by which cetuximab exerts its antitumor effects, as well as the possible clinical and molecular markers that may help predict therapeutic benefits for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

Key Words

colorectal cancer cetuximab epidermal growth factor receptor immune mechanisms prognostic marker 



epidermal growth factor receptor


complement-dependent cytotoxicity


metastatic colorectal cancer


monoclonal antibody


antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity


tumor antigen


epidermal growth factor


natural killer (cells)


dendritic cells


cytotoxic lymphocyte


best supportive care


overall survival


progression-free survival


response rate


antigenpresenting cell


human leukocyte antigen


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Copyright information

© Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital and Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hao Zhuang
    • 1
  • Zhen-yi Xue
    • 1
  • Lu Wang
    • 1
  • Xiao-yan Li
    • 1
  • Ning Zhang
    • 1
  • Rong-xin Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Research Center of Basic Medical SciencesTianjin Medical UniversityTianjinChina
  2. 2.Department of ImmunologyTianjin Medical UniversityTianjinChina

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