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Rationale and design of LUX-Head & Neck 1: a randomised, Phase III trial of afatinib versus methotrexate in patients with recurrent and/or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma who progressed after platinum-based therapy

Jean-Pascal H Machiels1*, Lisa F Licitra2, Robert I Haddad3, Makoto Tahara4 and Ezra EW Cohen5

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Center, Service d’Oncologie Médicale, Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc and Institut de Recherche Clinique et Expérimentale (Pole MIRO), Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium

2 Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milan, Italy

3 Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

4 National Cancer Center Hospital East, Kashiwa, Japan

5 University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center, La Jolla, CA, USA

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:473  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-473

Published: 28 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Patients with recurrent and/or metastatic (R/M) head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) receiving platinum-based chemotherapy as their first-line treatment have a dismal prognosis, with a median overall survival (OS) of ~7 months. Methotrexate is sometimes used following platinum failure or in patients not fit enough for platinum therapy, but this agent has not demonstrated any OS improvement. Targeted therapies are a novel approach, with the EGFR-targeting monoclonal antibody cetuximab (plus platinum-based chemotherapy) approved in the US and Europe in the first-line R/M setting, and as monotherapy following platinum failure in the US. However, there is still a high unmet medical need for new treatments that improve outcomes in the second-line R/M setting following failure on first-line platinum-containing regimens. Afatinib, an irreversible ErbB family blocker, was recently approved for the first-line treatment of EGFR mutation-positive metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. Afatinib has also shown clinical activity similar to cetuximab in a Phase II proof-of-concept HNSCC trial. Based on these observations, the Phase III, LUX-Head & Neck 1 study is evaluating afatinib versus methotrexate in R/M HNSCC patients following progression on platinum-based chemotherapy in the R/M setting.

Methods/Design

Patients with progressive disease after one first-line platinum-based chemotherapy are randomised 2:1 to oral afatinib (starting dose 40 mg once daily) or IV methotrexate (starting dose 40 mg/m2 once weekly) administered as monotherapy with best supportive care until progression or intolerable adverse events. Efficacy of afatinib versus methotrexate will be assessed in terms of progression-free survival (primary endpoint). Disease progression will be evaluated according to RECIST v1.1 by investigator and independent central review. Secondary endpoints include OS, tumour response and safety. Health-related quality of life and biomarker assessments will also be performed.

Discussion

If the LUX-Head & Neck 1 trial meets its primary endpoint, it will demonstrate the ability of afatinib to elicit an improved treatment benefit versus a commonly used chemotherapy agent in the second-line treatment of R/M HNSCC patients who have failed on first-line platinum-based therapy, confirm the clinical efficacy of afatinib observed in the Phase II proof-of-concept study, and establish a new standard of care for this patient population.

Keywords:
Afatinib; Methotrexate; Head and neck; Phase III; Recurrent; Metastatic