Tumor Biology

, Volume 35, Issue 12, pp 11741–11750 | Cite as

Efficacy and toxicity of adding cetuximab to chemotherapy in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer: a meta-analysis from 12 randomized controlled trials

  • Zhong-chuan Lv
  • Jin-yao Ning
  • Hong-bing Chen
Research Article


Cetuxiamb, a monoclonal antibody against epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), has been used in combination with chemotherapy for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). However, the efficacy of combined therapies of cetuximab and different chemotherapy regimens remains controversial. Therefore, we conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the efficacy and toxicity of adding cetuximab to oxaliplatin-based or irinotecan-based chemotherapeutic regimens for the treatment of patients with mCRC with wild-type/mutated KRAS tumors. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), published in Pubmed and Embase were systematically reviewed to assess the survival benefits and toxicity profile mCRC patients treated with cetuximab plus chemotherapy. Outcomes included overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS), overall response rate (ORR), and toxicities. Results were expressed as the hazard ratio (HR) with 95 % confidence intervals (CI). Pooled estimates were generated by using a fixed-effects model or a randomized-effects model, depending on the heterogeneity among studies. A total of 12 trials involving 6,297 patients met the inclusion criteria and were included in this meta-analysis. All patients were administered oxaliplatin-based or irinotecan-based chemotherapy with or without cetuximab. Pooled results showed that the addition of cetuximab did not significantly improve the OS (HR = 0.99, 95 % CI = 0.89–1.09; Z = 0.28, P = 0.78) or PFS (HR = 0.94, 95 % CI = 0.81–1.10; Z = 0.76, P = 0.49), but did improve ORR (RR = 1.34, 95 % CI = 1.08–1.65; Z = 2.72, P = 0.00), when compared with chemotherapy alone. Subgroup analysis showed the highest PFS benefit in patients with wild-type KRAS tumors (HR = 0.80, 95 % CI = 0.65–0.99; Z = 2.1, P = 0.04) or wild-type KRAS/BRAF tumors (HR = 0.64, 95 % CI = 0.52–0.79; Z = 4.15, P = 0.00). When combined with cetuximab, irinotecan-based chemotherapy was significantly associated with prolonged PFS (HR = 0.79, 95 % CI = 0.66–0.96; Z = 2.36, P = 0.02) for all patients with differing gene-status. The incidence of grade 3/4 adverse events, including skin toxicity, diarrhea, hypertension, anorexia, and mucositis/stomatitis, was slightly higher in the combined therapy group than in the chemotherapy-only group. Based on the current evidence, the addition of cetuximab to chemotherapy significantly improves the PFS in patients with wild-type KRAS or wild-type KRAS/BRAF tumors as well as the ORR in all patients. In addition, irinotecan-based combination therapy showed a beneficial effect on the PFS in all patients. These findings confirm the use of cetuximab in combination with chemotherapy for the treatment of patients with mCRC with wild-type KRAS tumors. Further multi-center RCTs are needed to indentify these findings.


Colorectal cancer Cetuximab KRAS Meta-analysis 


Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Gastrointestinal SurgeryThe Affiliated Yantai Yuhuangding Hospital of Qingdao University Medical CollegeYantaiChina

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