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Researchers narrow the search for biomarkers of drug resistance in head and neck cancer patients
Date:5/31/2013

CHICAGO, IL (May 29, 2013)Researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center will present data at the 49th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology on Saturday, June 1, which shows the discovery of potential biomarkers that may be used to identify patients with head and neck cancer whose tumors are unlikely to respond to treatment by the targeted therapy cetuximaba type of monoclonal antibody. The FDA approved the drug, in combination with radiation or as a second-line drug after chemotherapy had failed, in 2006. In 2011, the drug was approved as a first-line treatment for metastatic disease, in combination with chemotherapy.

"Targeted therapies should optimally be used in patients who are selected for sensitivity or the absence of sensitivity, and we've been handicapped by not knowing the resistance in head and neck cancers," says Barbara Burtness, MD, chief of head and neck medical oncology at Fox Chase and chair of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG), a National Cancer Institute-funded team of researchers who organize and carry out clinical trials.

Before cetuximab, head and neck cancer patients' only options were conventional platinum-based chemotherapy and radiation, says Burtness. But since tumors in different people may have different biologies, not all patients respond to same treatment in the same ways. Those whose tumors do not respond to cetuximab suffer the drug's side effects without gaining benefits. Biomarkers can help providers match appropriate treatments to disease. They may also provide inroads toward re-sensitizing tumors to treatment by cetuximab.

She and researchers from the ECOG head and neck committee have been studying the biology of cetuximab-resistant and non-resistant tumors in search of telltale molecular signatures, or biomarkers, that might indicate if a disease will respond to the drug. The researchers have zeroed in on two potential biomarkers.

Cetuximab targets the epi
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Contact: Diana Quattrone
diana.quattrone@fccc.edu
215-815-7828
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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