Computed tomography (CT), the standard method to assess tumor response to cetuximab in incurable squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN), performs poorly as judged by the disparity between high disease control rate (46%) and short time to progression (TTP) (70 days). F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET)/CT is an alternative method to assess tumor response. The primary objective of this prospective trial was to evaluate the metabolic response of target lesions, assessed as the change in maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) on FDG-PET/CT before and after 8 weeks (cycle 1) of cetuximab. Secondary objectives were to compare tumor response by CT (RECIST 1.0) and FDG-PET/CT (EORTC criteria) following cycle 1, and determine TTP with continued cetuximab administration in patients with disease control by CT after cycle 1 but stratified for disease control or progression by FDG-PET/CT. Among 27 patients, the mean percent change of SUVmax of target lesions after cycle 1 was -21% (range: +72% to -81%); by FDG-PET/CT, partial response (PR)/stable disease (SD) occurred in 15 patients (56%) and progression in 12 (44%), whereas by CT, PR/SD occurred in 20 (74%) and progression in 7 (26%). FDG-PET/CT and CT assessments were discordant in 14 patients (P = 0.0029) and had low agreement (κ = 0.30; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.12, 0.48). With disease control by CT after cycle 1, median TTP was 166 days (CI: 86, 217) if the FDG-PET/CT showed disease control and 105 days (CI: 66, 159) if the FDG-PET/CT showed progression (P < 0.0001). Median TTP of the seven patients whose post cycle 1 CT showed progression compared to the 12 whose FDG-PET/CT showed progression were similar (53 [CI: 49, 56] vs. 61 [CI: 50, 105] days, respectively). FDG-PET/CT may be better than CT in assessing benefit of cetuximab in incurable SCCHN.
- Head and neck
- Squamous cell carcinoma