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Cetuximab in Treating Patients with Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Trial Status: Active

This phase II trial studies how well cetuximab works in treating patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Monoclonal antibodies, such as cetuximab, may interfere with the ability of tumor cells to grow and spread.

Inclusion Criteria

  • Patients must be informed of the investigational nature of the study and must be able to sign a written informed consent
  • Patients must have suspected or known clinical presentation of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma or a recurrence of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma after initial therapy. For newly suspected head and neck cancer, the procedure will obtain tissue for both standard of care biopsy and additional tissue for research
  • Participants must have sufficient tumor volume (approximately 10 cc) to accommodate at minimum 2-3 core samples for the research biopsy. This will be approximated based on clinical evidence, such as physician visualization or palpitation
  • Patients are required to consent to the Translational Science Biocore (TSB) Biobank protocol (2016-0934) as part of this study
  • Surgical management must be the chosen modality for management of the head and neck squamous cell cancer * Other therapeutic modalities may follow, but surgery must be the choice for first therapy rendered
  • Patients must have a biopsy proven, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, excluding advanced cutaneous head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
  • Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status =< 1
  • Women of childbearing potential (WOCP) must not be pregnant (confirmed by a negative urine/serum pregnancy test within 7 days of cetuximab treatment). In addition, a medically acceptable method of birth control must be used such as an oral, implantable, injectable, or transdermal hormonal contraceptive, an intrauterine device (IUD), use of a double barrier method (condoms, sponge, diaphragm, or vaginal ring with spermicidal jellies or cream), or total abstinence during the study participation and for 6 months after last dose of study drug. Women who are postmenopausal for at least 1 year or surgically sterile (bilateral tubal ligation, bilateral oophorectomy, or hysterectomy) are not considered to be WOCP
  • Men who are not surgically or medically sterile must agree to use an acceptable method of contraception. Male patients with female sexual partners who are pregnant, possibly pregnant, or who could become pregnant must agree to use condoms during the study and for 6 months post study drug. Total abstinence for the same study period is an acceptable alternative
  • Patients with other concomitant malignancies are allowed to participate on the clinical trial as long as the surgical resection of the head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is clinically indicated
  • Patients with metastatic disease are allowed to participate on the clinical trial as long as the surgical resection of the head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is clinically indicated

Exclusion Criteria

  • Diagnosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma of the head & neck, and salivary gland tumors
  • Other concurrent severe and/or uncontrolled concomitant medical conditions (e.g. active or uncontrolled infection, uncontrolled diabetes) that could cause unacceptable safety risks or compromise compliance with the protocol
  • Prior chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or major surgery within 8 weeks of study enrollment or those who have not recovered (to grade =< 1 or baseline) from clinically significant adverse events due to agents administered more than 8 weeks earlier (alopecia and fatigue excluded). Clinical significance to be determined by the study investigator
  • Prior cetuximab therapy is allowed so long as administered >= 8 weeks ago
  • History of allergic reactions attributed to compounds of chemical or biologic composition similar to those of cetuximab
  • Pregnancy, breastfeeding, or expecting to conceive or father children within the projected duration of the trial, starting with the screening visit through 6 months after the last dose of trial treatment
  • Ongoing or active infection, including active tuberculosis or known infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Patients with chronic, stable infections such as hepatitis C with an undetectable viral load, or HIV infection on highly active antiretroviral therapy with undetectable viral load are allowed on the clinical trial
  • Ongoing treatment with other investigational agents
  • Any of the following cardiac conditions: * Uncontrolled or poorly-controlled arrhythmia or uncontrolled cardiac insufficiency * Uncontrolled or poorly-controlled hypertension (> 180 mmHg systolic or > 130 mmHg diastolic)
  • Any of the following conditions: * Serious or non-healing wound, ulcer, or bone fracture * History of abdominal fistula, gastrointestinal perforation, or intra-abdominal abscess within 28 days of study enrollment * History of cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or transient ischemic attack within 12 months prior to study enrollment * History of myocardial infarction, ventricular arrhythmia, stable/unstable angina, symptomatic congestive heart failure, coronary/peripheral artery bypass graft or stenting or other significant cardiac disease within 6 months prior to study enrollment * History of arterial or venous thrombosis/thromboembolic event, including pulmonary embolism within 6 months of study enrollment * Any condition requiring the use of immunosuppression, excluding rheumatologic conditions treated with stable doses of corticosteroids * Use of herbal supplements (St. John’s wort, gingko biloba, etc.) within one week of cetuximab treatment


University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics
Status: ACTIVE
Contact: Justine Yang-Bruce
Phone: 608-262-4961


I. To evaluate the hypothesis that low AXL correlates with clinical response to cetuximab in head and neck cancer patients.


I. To further describe the safety of pre-operative administration of cetuximab.


I. To correlate AXL expression with change in Ki67 following cetuximab in head and neck cancer (HNC) patients.

2. To examine other putative markers of cetuximab sensitivity such as HER3 and change in circulating tumor cells and other biomarkers.

3. To establish the first panel of patient-derived xenografts from patients with known sensitivity or resistance to cetuximab.


Patients receive cetuximab intravenously (IV) over 2 hours on day 1 and over 1 hour on day 8. Within 2 weeks, patients undergo surgery.

After completion of study treatment, patients are followed up at 1, 3, and 12 months.

Trial Phase Phase II

Trial Type Treatment

Lead Organization
University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics

Principal Investigator
Justine Yang-Bruce

  • Primary ID UW18098
  • Secondary IDs NCI-2018-02990, 2018-1232
  • ID NCT03769311