Targeted therapy for head and neck cancers
Targeted therapy drugs affect specific features of cancer cells to block their growth. One targeted therapy drug called cetuximab is available in Australia for squamous cell carcinomas in the head and neck area, when people cannot take the standard chemotherapy drug.
Cetuximab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to the surface of cancer cells and stops them growing and dividing. Cetuximab is given through a drip into a vein. For head and neck cancer, it is used with radiation therapy.
Side effects of targeted therapy
The most common side effects of cetuximab are skin problems (such as redness, swelling, an acne-like rash or dry, flaky skin), mouth sores, tiredness and diarrhoea. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medicine to prevent or treat side effects.
For more on this, see Targeted therapy.
|Other targeted therapy and immunotherapy drugs are being studied in clinical trials. Talk with your doctor about the latest developments and whether you are a suitable candidate. You may also find it useful to listen to our podcast on New Cancer Treatments.|
Listen to our podcast on New Cancer Treatments – Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy
Video: What is targeted therapy?
A/Prof David Wiesenfeld, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Director, Head and Neck Tumour Stream, The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Melbourne Health, VIC; Alan Bradbury, Consumer; Dr Ben Britton, Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist, John Hunter Hospital, NSW; Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, QLD; Jedda Clune, Senior Dietitian (Head and Neck Cancer), Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Dr Ben Dixon, ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Emma Hair, Senior Social Worker, St George Hospital, NSW; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kara Hutchinson, Head and Neck Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Julia Maclean, Speech Pathologist, St George Hospital, NSW; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Andrea Wong, Physiotherapist, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
Targeted therapy is a type of drug treatment that attacks specific features of cancer cells, known as molecular targets, to stop the cancer growing and spreading. Other names for targeted therapy include biological therapies and molecular targeted therapy.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a qualified health professional someone who has been there, support groups & forum
Need legal and financial assistance?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Work and cancer
Information for employees, employers and workplaces dealing with cancer