: The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is overexpressed in more than 80% of squamous cell cancers of the head and neck (SCCHN). An evolving understanding of the role of EGFR in tumorigenesis has made the receptor an important therapeutic target in SCCHN. Several EGFR inhibitors (EGFRIs) are active in SCCHN, and their use is associated with improvement in progression-free survival and overall survival in various treatment settings. Nevertheless, EGFR inhibition is associated with significant mucocutaneous toxicity that must be balanced against its anticipated efficacy. This review summarizes the relevant clinical trial experience with EGFRIs, with attention to efficacy, toxicity, and methods of selecting patients most likely to benefit from therapy.Cetuximab and other inhibitors of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have entered the medical oncologist's arsenal against squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). They are modestly active as single agents and in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Despite their efficacy across multiple treatment settings, cetuximab and other EGFR inhibitors (EGFRIs) have not supplanted platinum-based therapies, which remain a standard of care for SCCHN. The modest benefits of EGFRI therapy must take into consideration patient, disease, and treatment characteristics and must be balanced against potential treatment toxicity.
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