Cancer Home > What Is Cetuximab Used For?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of cetuximab in the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. It may be given alone or with other drugs. Possible off-label uses include the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. This medicine is not approved for children, but can be given to older adults.

An Overview of Uses for Cetuximab

Cetuximab (Erbitux®) is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of a type of cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) of the head and neck. It is also approved to treat certain types of advanced colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum). People may receive cetuximab alone or in combination with other treatments.

Cetuximab Uses for Head and Neck Cancer

As you might guess, head and neck cancer refers to cancer that starts in the area of the head and neck, such as the nose, mouth, and throat. The most common type begins in the mucous cells that line the nose, mouth, and throat. This type of head and neck cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).
Cetuximab is approved to treat SCCHN in the following ways:
  • In combination with radiation therapy in people who have not yet been treated for their head and neck cancer
  • In combination with "platinum-based" chemotherapy (cisplatin or carboplatin) and fluorouracil (Adrucil®, Carac®, Efudex®, Fluoroplex®, also known as 5-FU) in people whose cancer has come back to the same location (recurred) or has spread to other areas of the body (is metastatic)
  • As the only treatment in people whose cancer has come back to the same location or has spread to other areas of the body and who have failed treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy.
Cetuximab may help shrink cancer tumors in people with head and neck cancer. When used with radiation treatment, it may help improve survival. It does not get rid of cancer, however.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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