Since its introduction, the use of cetuximab in the treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has experienced an evolution. Currently, cetuximab associated with radiotherapy is limited to the treatment of patients affected by a locally advanced malignancy and unfit for cisplatin. However, reliable biomarkers of cetuximab efficacy in this cancer setting are still lacking. This review focuses on the mechanisms of action of cetuximab, highlighting, in particular, the consequences of the binding to EGFR, and the pathways involved in the development of adverse events or acquired resistance. Indeed, adverse events, such as skin rash, have been associated with cetuximab efficacy in HNSCC several times. Acquired resistance is associated with microenvironment plasticity, which is, in turn, characterized by an increased immune infiltrate. The better definition of patients eligible for this kind of therapy could improve HNSCC management, possibly proposing a combined treatment with radiotherapy, cetuximab and immune checkpoint inhibitors as recently investigated.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.