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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Cetuximab (Erbitux®)


Brand Name: Erbitux®

Cetuximab is used to treat a certain type of head and neck cancer, and colorectal cancer. More specifically, cetuximab may be used alone or in combination with another medication to treat a certain type of colon or rectum cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Cetuximab is a monoclonal antibody, which belongs to the type of cancer drugs known as biologics or targeted therapy. This drug works by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells.

Given as a liquid, cetuximab is slowly injected, or infused, into a vein. Most often, cetuximab is given once a week.

Cetuximab side effects

To prevent problematic interactions between cetuximab and other drugs, be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications, and what other medications and supplements you are currently taking. You should also inform your doctor if you have or ever had a liver tumor, liver disease, or kidney disease, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding. Cetuximab should not be taken during breastfeeding.

Possible side effects may include:

  • Acne-like rash
  • Dry or cracking skin
  • Swelling or pain in the fingernails or toenails
  • Red, water, or itchy eyes
  • Red or swollen eyelids
  • Pain or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Hair loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth sores
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Headache
  • Excessive tiredness or weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Back pain
  • Pain or swelling at the injection site

Some of cetuximab’s side effects can be serious. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Swelling of the hands, feet, ankles or lower legs
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath or unusual tiredness during exercise
  • Fainting
  • Decreased urination
  • Muscle cramps
  • Uncontrollable shaking of the hands or bodily twitching
  • Sore throat, fever, chills or other signs of infection
  • Hives
  • Red, swollen or infected skin

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. Patients may experience additional effects not mentioned above.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), your team of cancer experts will explain each of the side effects of cetuximab with you in detail, as well as the side effects and expectations of all other medications planned as part of your individualized treatment plan.

Cetuximab for cancer treatment

Cetuximab is approved by the FDA for the following cancer treatments:

  • In combination with irinotecan for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer that expresses epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in patients who have been previously treated with irinotecan-based therapy
  • As a single agent for the treatment of EGFR-expressing metastatic colorectal carcinoma in patients who are unable to tolerate irinotecan-based therapy
  • In combination with radiation therapy for the initial treatment of locally or regionally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck
  • As a single agent for the treatment of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck that has recurred or spread to other parts of the body after treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy

At CTCA, our integrative approach to cancer treatment works to fight your disease on all fronts and ensures that you remain at the center of everything we do. We encourage participation from both you and your family to make certain you are comfortable with all decisions made regarding your treatment.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Cancer Treatment Centers of America assumes no responsibility for how this material is used. Please check with a physician if you suspect you are ill. Also note that while Cancer Treatment Centers of America frequently updates its contents, medical information changes rapidly. Therefore, some information may be out of date.