for people ages 18 years and up (full criteria)
at La Jolla, California and other locations
study started
estimated completion



RATIONALE: Giving radiation therapy that uses a 3-dimensional (3-D) image of the tumor to help focus thin beams of radiation directly on the tumor, and giving radiation therapy in higher doses over a shorter period of time, may kill more tumor cells and have fewer side effects. Monoclonal antibodies, such as cetuximab, can block tumor growth in different ways. Some block the ability of tumor cells to grow and spread. Others find tumor cells and help kill them or carry tumor-killing substances to them. It is not yet known whether radiation therapy is more effective when given alone or together with cetuximab in treating patients with head and neck cancer that has been removed by surgery.

PURPOSE: This randomized phase III trial is studying radiation therapy to see how well it works compared with radiation therapy given together with cetuximab in treating patients who have undergone surgery for locally advanced head and neck cancer.

Official Title

A Phase III Study of Postoperative Radiation Therapy (IMRT) +/- Cetuximab for Locally-Advanced Resected Head and Neck Cancer




  • Determine whether the addition of cetuximab to postoperative intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) will improve overall survival (OS) in patients with locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck at intermediate risk following surgery.


  • Assess the impact of the addition of cetuximab to postoperative IMRT on disease-free survival (DFS) of these patients.
  • Assess the impact of the addition of cetuximab to postoperative IMRT on acute and late dysphagia, xerostomia, skin toxicity, and other toxicities according to common Toxicity Criteria for Adverse Effects (CTCAE), v. 4 and their relationships with patient-reported outcomes at 3, 12, and 24 months.
  • Analyze tumor for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), specifically the extent of EGFR overexpression by immuno-histochemistry (IHC) and FISH analysis, EGFRvIII expression, as well as the association of these assay data with OS and DFS.
  • Analyze tumor for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection (as defined by in situ hybridization), specifically, within the cohort of patients with oropharynx cancer, to perform an exploratory analysis of the impact of HPV on DFS and OS of this patient subset.
  • Analyze tumor DNA for TP53 mutations as a predictor of response to cetuximab and prognosis.
  • Analyze germline DNA of polymorphic variants in EGFR intron repeats as a predictor of response to cetuximab.


  • Assess the impact of the addition of cetuximab to postoperative IMRT on loco-regional control.
  • Assess the impact of the addition of cetuximab to postoperative IMRT on patient-reported quality of life, swallowing, xerostomia, and skin toxicity based on head and neck specific instruments, including the Performance Status Scale for Head and Neck Cancer (PSS-HN), the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Head & Neck (FACT-H&N), the University of Michigan Xerostomia-Related Quality of Life Scale (XeQOLS), and the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI).
  • Assess the impact of the addition of cetuximab to postoperative IMRT on cost-utility analysis using the EuroQol (EQ-5D).
  • Evaluate the utility of image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT) as a means of enhancing the efficacy (i.e., loco-regional control) of IMRT while reducing the acute and/or late toxicity (particularly xerostomia) and improving patient-reported outcomes (particularly XeQOLS scores).
  • Retrospectively compare the loco-regional control rate in patients treated with IMRT alone (no IGRT or cetuximab) with similar patients treated with external beam radiotherapy alone in the postoperative clinical trial Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG)-95 01.

OUTLINE: This is a multicenter study. Patients are stratified according to clinical stage (T2-3 vs T4a), EGFR expression (high [≥ 80% of cells staining positive] vs low [< 80% of cells staining positive] vs not evaluable), primary site of disease (oral cavity vs larynx vs oropharynx p16+ vs oropharynx p16- vs oropharynx, p16 not evaluable), and use of image-guided radiotherapy (yes vs no). Patients are randomized to 1 of 2 treatment arms.

  • Arm I: Patients undergo intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) once daily 5 days a week for 6 weeks in the absence of disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.
  • Arm II: Patients undergo IMRT as in arm I. Patients also receive cetuximab IV over 1-2 hours once weekly beginning at least 5 days prior to the start of IMRT and continuing for 4 weeks after the completion of IMRT (for a total of 11 doses) in the absence of disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.

Quality of life is assessed at baseline and at 3, 12, and 24 months.

Tissue samples are collected periodically for further laboratory analysis.

After completion of study treatment, patients are followed up at 1 and 3 months, every 3 months for 2 years, every 6 months for 3 years, and then annually thereafter.


Head and Neck Cancerstage III squamous cell carcinoma of the larynxstage III verrucous carcinoma of the larynxstage IV squamous cell carcinoma of the larynxstage IV verrucous carcinoma of the larynxstage III squamous cell carcinoma of the lip and oral cavitystage IV squamous cell carcinoma of the lip and oral cavitystage III verrucous carcinoma of the oral cavitystage IV verrucous carcinoma of the oral cavitystage III squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynxstage IV squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynxtongue cancerHead and Neck NeoplasmsCetuximabintensity-modulated radiation therapy


For people ages 18 years and up


  • Histologically confirmed squamous cell carcinoma (including variants, such as verrucous carcinoma, spindle cell carcinoma, or carcinoma not otherwise specified) of the head and neck, including the following subtypes:
  • Oral cavity
  • Oropharynx
  • Larynx
  • Clinical stage T1, N1-2, M0 OR T2-4a, N0-2, M0 disease based on the following diagnostic workup within the past 8 weeks:
  • General history and physical examination by a Radiation Oncologist and/or Medical Oncologist
  • Chest x-ray or chest CT scan (with or without contrast) or chest CT/PET scan (with or without contrast)
  • Must have undergone gross total resection of the primary tumor with curative intent within the past 7 weeks with surgical pathology demonstrating ≥ 1 of the following criteria for "intermediate" risk of recurrence:
  • Perineural invasion
  • Lymphovascular invasion
  • Single lymph node > 3 cm or ≥ 2 lymph nodes (all < 6 cm) (no extracapsular extension)
  • Close margin(s) of resection, defined as cancer extending to within 5 mm of a surgical margin, and/or an initially focally positive margin that is subsequently superseded by intraoperative negative margins (similarly, patients whose tumors had focally positive margins in the main specimen but negative margins from re-excised samples in the region of the positive margin are eligible)
  • Pathologically confirmed T3 or T4a primary tumor
  • T2 oral cavity cancer with > 5 mm depth of invasion
  • No positive margin(s) (defined as tumor present at the cut or inked edge of the tumor), nodal extracapsular extension, and/or gross residual disease after surgery


  • Zubrod performance status 0-1
  • Absolute granulocyte count ≥ 1,500/mm³
  • Platelet count ≥ 100,000/mm³
  • Hemoglobin ≥ 8.0 g/dL (transfusion or other intervention allowed)
  • Total bilirubin < 2 times upper limit of normal (ULN)
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) or alanine aminotransferase (ALT) < 3 times ULN
  • Serum creatinine < 2 times ULN OR creatinine clearance ≥ 50 mL/min
  • Not pregnant or nursing
  • Negative pregnancy test
  • Fertile patients must use effective contraception
  • No other invasive malignancy within the past 3 years, except for nonmelanomatous skin cancer or previously treated carcinoma in situ of the breast, oral cavity, or cervix
  • No simultaneous primary or bilateral tumors
  • No severe, active co-morbidity, including any of the following:
  • Unstable angina and/or congestive heart failure requiring hospitalization within the past 6 months
  • Transmural myocardial infarction within the past 6 months
  • Acute bacterial or fungal infection requiring IV antibiotics at the time of study registration
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation or other respiratory illness requiring hospitalization or precluding study therapy
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or other severe interstitial lung disease that requires oxygen therapy or is thought to have required oxygen therapy within the past year
  • Hepatic insufficiency resulting in clinical jaundice and/or coagulation defects
  • AIDS based on current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) definition
  • Grade 3-4 electrolyte abnormalities according to CTCAE, v. 4, including any of the following:
  • Serum calcium (ionized or adjusted for albumin) < 7 mg/dL or > 12.5 mg/dL*
  • Glucose < 40 mg/dL or > 250 mg/dL
  • Magnesium < 0.9 mg/dL or > 3 mg/dL*
  • Potassium < 3.0 mmol/L or > 6 mmol/L*
  • Sodium < 130 mmol/L or > 155 mmol/L NOTE: Despite intervention to normalize levels.

  • No prior allergic reaction to cetuximab


  • See Disease Characteristics
  • No prior systemic chemotherapy or anti-epidermal growth factor (EGF) therapy for this cancer
  • Prior chemotherapy or anti-EGF therapy for a different cancer allowed
  • No prior radiotherapy to the region of the study cancer that would result in overlap of radiotherapy fields
  • No concurrent amifostine as a radioprotector
  • No concurrent granulocyte colony-stimulating factor or erythropoietin


  • UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center
    La JollaCalifornia92093United States
  • Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center
    PomonaCalifornia91767United States


in progress, not accepting new patients
Start Date
Completion Date
Radiation Therapy Oncology Group
Phase 3
Study Type
Last Updated