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Head and neck cancer

Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR); hedgehog pathway

Cell culture and mouse studies suggest combined inhibition of EGFR and the hedgehog pathway could help prevent drug resistance in head and neck cancers. In human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cells with acquired resistance to the EGFR inhibitor Tarceva erlotinib, treatment with the drug caused an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition that increased invasiveness and resistance compared with no treatment. In a mouse xenograft model for HNSCC, the EGFR inhibitor Erbitux cetuximab plus a hedgehog pathway inhibitor delayed or prevented tumor regrowth, whereas Erbitux alone did not. Next steps could include testing combined treatment regimens in additional cancer models.
Eli Lilly and Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Merck KGaA market Erbitux to treat head and neck cancer.
Astellas Pharma Inc., Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and Roche market Tarceva to treat liver cancer, pancreatic cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

SciBX 6(18); doi:10.1038/scibx.2013.436
Published online May 9, 2013

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Keysar, S.B. et al. Cancer Res.; published online April 10, 2013;
Contact: Antonio Jimeno, University of Colorado Cancer Center, Aurora, Colo.