Erbitux® Improves Survival in Colorectal Cancer

Erbitux® Improves Survival in Colorectal Cancer

According to an article recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the targeted agent Erbitux® (cetuximab) improves overall and progression-free survival while maintaining quality of life for patients with recurrent colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Advanced colorectal cancer refers to cancer that has spread from its site of origin, beyond the colon and nearby lymph nodes. Standard treatment for advanced colorectal cancer typically includes surgery (if possible) plus chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and/or radiation therapy. However, a significant portion of patients will experience a recurrence of their cancer.

Targeted agents have recently demonstrated effectiveness in the treatment of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Advanced colorectal cancer refers to cancer that has spread from its site of origin to distant sites in the body, often invading vital organs.

Camptosar is a commonly used chemotherapy agent for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer. However, some patients either do not respond to initial therapy with Camptosar or eventually stop responding.

Erbitux is a targeted agent that slows or prevents the growth or spread of some cancers. Erbitux targets and binds to a specific protein, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is a component of biologic pathways involved in growth and spread of cells. The addition of Erbitux to Camptosar has demonstrated effectiveness among patients who do not respond to Camptosar alone. Research continues to evaluate the effectiveness of Erbitux in various types of diseases and with different combinations of agents.

Researchers from Canada and Australia recently conducted a clinical trial to further evaluate Erbitux as a single agent in the treatment with colorectal cancer. This trial included 572 patients with colorectal cancer who had either been previously treated with the chemotherapy agents Eloxatin, Camptosar® (irinotecan), and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) or were not eligible to receive treatment with these chemotherapy agents. Patients were treated with either Erbitux alone or best supportive care (BSC).

  • Overall survival was improved by 23% among patients treated with Erbitux compared with those who received BSC.
  • Progression-free survival was improved by 32% among patients treated with Erbitux compared with those who received BSC.
  • Median survival was 6.1 for patients treated with Erbitux compared with 4.6 months for patients who received BSC.
  • Quality of life was improved among patients treatred with Erbitux compared with those who received BSC.

The researchers concluded that Erbitux improves overall survival and progression-free survival and preserves quality of life in patients with colorectal cancer for whom other treatments have failed.

Reference: Jonker D, O’Callaghan C, Karapetis C, et al. Cetuximab for the treatment of colorectal cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. 2007;357:2040-2048.

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