Cetuximab is a type of drug called a monoclonal antibody. These drugs are sometimes called targeted therapies. They work by ‘targeting’ specific proteins (receptors) on the surface of cells.
Certain cancer cells have receptors on their surface called epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs). Activating them triggers the cancer cells to divide and grow. Cetuximab locks on to the EGFRs and stops the cancer cells growing. It may also make the cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
When it is used to treat bowel cancer, cetuximab only works on bowel cancers that have a normal RAS gene. The RAS gene helps control cell growth. Doctors will test the cancer cells before treatment to see if there are changes (mutations) in this gene.
It is best to read this information with our general information about the type of cancer you have. During treatment, you will see a cancer doctor and a cancer nurse. This is who we mean when we mention doctor or nurse in this information.