Targeted therapies for cancer of the voicebox (larynx)
Targeted therapies are drugs that have an anti-cancer effect but work differently from chemotherapy.
Each drug works in a different way, but they all affect the way cancer cells grow or divide.
A drug called cetuximab (Erbitux®) can be used for some people with cancer of the larynx. It’s given as a drip (infusion) into a vein.
Cetuximab ‘targets’ specific proteins (receptors) on the surface of the cancer cells. This prevents the cells from growing and dividing. It can also make cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of radiotherapy.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) gives advice on which new drugs should be available on the NHS in England and Wales. The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) makes recommendations on the use of new drugs within the NHS in Scotland.
Both these organisations recommend using cetuximab in combination with radiotherapy to treat locally advanced and advanced laryngeal cancers in people who can’t have chemotherapy and chemoradiation.
If you live in Northern Ireland, speak to your cancer specialist about whether cetuximab is recommended for you.
The side effects of cetuximab are usually mild. Some people have flu-like symptoms such as a headache, fever, chills or dizziness when the infusion is being given. You’ll be given medication before the infusion to reduce the risk of this happening.
The most common side effect is a skin rash. This can be a mild, acne-like rash, but some people may have a more severe skin reaction in the area where they have had their radiotherapy. You’ll be given advice on how to look after your skin while you’re having cetuximab.