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Cetuximab Trial Findings for Unresectable Squamous Cell Skin Cancer Treatment

Cetuximab, an intravenous epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor has shown potential as a first-line therapy for patients with unresectable squamous cell skin cancer.
Where many cases can be controlled in chemotherapy and surgery, some cases are too advanced or elderly patients cannot handle chemotherapy treatment.  This is where cetuximab treatment can most be helpful. Two phases of the trial have been conducted, however researchers feel a third phase is necessary before cetuximab can be considered as a therapy option for these patients.
Trial Findings
36 patients with unresectable squamous cell carcinoma of the skin took part in the trial. The median age was 79, where 23 of the 36 patients were over the age of 70. Patients were given a median of 15 cetuximab infusions weekly.
At six weeks, 31/36 patients showed tumor response. Two patients had complete disease control for 2.5 years after treatment. Overall response rate with complete and partial remissions was 10/36.
Surgical Involvement
Three patients that underwent surgery after cetuximab therapy showed a positive response and were disease free for three years, seven months and twenty-four months respectively. 
Side Effects
Around 2 weeks into treatment, 100% of patients developed an acne-like rash. Patients who did not develop the rash showed a lower overall survival (4 months) when compared to those who did (8.9 months).
Alternatives to EGFR Inhibitors
Patients healthy enough for chemotherapy can try cisplatin-based chemotherapy.  Retinoid medication is another option, as well as interferon alpha.
[Sources: Journal of Clinical Oncology; Medscape]

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