Targeting epidermal growth factor receptor for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma: still lost in translation?

Christopher H. Chapman, Nabil F. Saba, Sue S. Yom

Abstract

The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is preferentially expressed in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), and is a promising therapeutic target. Yet other than cetuximab, no agent targeting EGFR has been approved for this disease, and none has shown benefit over the standard of care. Several randomized trials of antibody and small molecule agents have found no new indication for these agents, despite their initial promise. In this review, we examine the major clinical evidence and discuss potential future developments of translational science in this area, including use of these agents in risk-stratified subgroups, inhibition of downstream/parallel targets, and combination with immunotherapy.