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Erbitux (Cetuximab) - Warnings and Precautions



Infusion Reactions: Serious infusion reactions occurred with the administration of Erbitux in approximately 3% of patients in clinical trials, with fatal outcome reported in less than 1 in 1000. [See Warnings and Precautions , Adverse Reactions (6) .] Immediately interrupt and permanently discontinue Erbitux infusion for serious infusion reactions. [See Dosage and Administration , Warnings and Precautions .]

Cardiopulmonary Arrest: Cardiopulmonary arrest and/or sudden death occurred in 2% of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck treated with Erbitux and radiation therapy in Study 1 and in 3% of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck treated with European Union (EU)-approved cetuximab in combination with platinum-based therapy with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in Study 2. Closely monitor serum electrolytes, including serum magnesium, potassium, and calcium, during and after Erbitux administration. [See Warnings and Precautions (5.2, 5.6) , Clinical Studies .]



Infusion Reactions

Serious infusion reactions, requiring medical intervention and immediate, permanent discontinuation of Erbitux included rapid onset of airway obstruction (bronchospasm, stridor, hoarseness), hypotension, shock, loss of consciousness, myocardial infarction, and/or cardiac arrest. Severe (NCI CTC Grades 3 and 4) infusion reactions occurred in 2–5% of 1373 patients in Studies 1, 3, 5, and 6 receiving Erbitux, with fatal outcome in 1 patient. [See Clinical Studies (14.1, 14.2) .]

Approximately 90% of severe infusion reactions occurred with the first infusion despite premedication with antihistamines.

Monitor patients for 1 hour following Erbitux infusions in a setting with resuscitation equipment and other agents necessary to treat anaphylaxis (eg, epinephrine, corticosteroids, intravenous antihistamines, bronchodilators, and oxygen). Monitor longer to confirm resolution of the event in patients requiring treatment for infusion reactions.

Immediately and permanently discontinue Erbitux in patients with serious infusion reactions. [See Boxed Warning , Dosage and Administration .]

Cardiopulmonary Arrest

Cardiopulmonary arrest and/or sudden death occurred in 4 (2%) of 208 patients treated with radiation therapy and Erbitux as compared to none of 212 patients treated with radiation therapy alone in Study 1. Three patients with prior history of coronary artery disease died at home, with myocardial infarction as the presumed cause of death. One of these patients had arrhythmia and one had congestive heart failure. Death occurred 27, 32, and 43 days after the last dose of Erbitux. One patient with no prior history of coronary artery disease died one day after the last dose of Erbitux. In Study 2, fatal cardiac disorders and/or sudden death occurred in 7 (3%) of 219 patients treated with EU-approved cetuximab and platinum-based therapy with 5-FU as compared to 4 (2%) of 215 patients treated with chemotherapy alone. Five of these 7 patients in the chemotherapy plus cetuximab arm received concomitant cisplatin and 2 patients received concomitant carboplatin. All 4 patients in the chemotherapy-alone arm received cisplatin. Carefully consider use of Erbitux in combination with radiation therapy or platinum-based therapy with 5-FU in head and neck cancer patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, or arrhythmias in light of these risks. Closely monitor serum electrolytes, including serum magnesium, potassium, and calcium, during and after Erbitux. [See Boxed Warning , Warnings and Precautions .]

Pulmonary Toxicity

Interstitial lung disease (ILD), including 1 fatality, occurred in 4 of 1570 (<0.5%) patients receiving Erbitux in Studies 1, 3, and 6, as well as other studies, in colorectal cancer and head and neck cancer. Interrupt Erbitux for acute onset or worsening of pulmonary symptoms. Permanently discontinue Erbitux for confirmed ILD.

Dermatologic Toxicity

Dermatologic toxicities, including acneiform rash, skin drying and fissuring, paronychial inflammation, infectious sequelae (for example, S. aureus sepsis, abscess formation, cellulitis, blepharitis, conjunctivitis, keratitis/ulcerative keratitis with decreased visual acuity, cheilitis), and hypertrichosis occurred in patients receiving Erbitux therapy. Acneiform rash occurred in 76–88% of 1373 patients receiving Erbitux in Studies 1, 3, 5, and 6. Severe acneiform rash occurred in 1–17% of patients.

Acneiform rash usually developed within the first two weeks of therapy and resolved in a majority of the patients after cessation of treatment, although in nearly half, the event continued beyond 28 days. Monitor patients receiving Erbitux for dermatologic toxicities and infectious sequelae. Instruct patients to limit sun exposure during Erbitux therapy. [See Dosage and Administration .]

Use of Erbitux in Combination With Radiation and Cisplatin

In a controlled study, 940 patients with locally advanced SCCHN were randomized 1:1 to receive either Erbitux in combination with radiation therapy and cisplatin or radiation therapy and cisplatin alone. The addition of Erbitux resulted in an increase in the incidence of Grade 3–4 mucositis, radiation recall syndrome, acneiform rash, cardiac events, and electrolyte disturbances compared to radiation and cisplatin alone. Adverse reactions with fatal outcome were reported in 20 patients (4.4%) in the Erbitux combination arm and 14 patients (3.0%) in the control arm. Nine patients in the Erbitux arm (2.0%) experienced myocardial ischemia compared to 4 patients (0.9%) in the control arm. The main efficacy outcome of the study was progression-free survival (PFS). The addition of Erbitux to radiation and cisplatin did not improve PFS.

Hypomagnesemia and Electrolyte Abnormalities

In patients evaluated during clinical trials, hypomagnesemia occurred in 55% of 365 patients receiving Erbitux in Study 5 and two other clinical trials in colorectal cancer and head and neck cancer, respectively, and was severe (NCI CTC Grades 3 and 4) in 6–17%.

In Study 2, where EU-approved cetuximab was administered in combination with platinum-based therapy, the addition of cetuximab to cisplatin and 5-FU resulted in an increased incidence of hypomagnesemia (14% vs. 6%) and of Grade 3–4 hypomagnesemia (7% vs. 2%) compared to cisplatin and 5-FU alone. In contrast, the incidences of hypomagnesemia were similar for those who received cetuximab, carboplatin, and 5-FU compared to carboplatin and 5-FU (4% vs. 4%). No patient experienced Grade 3–4 hypomagnesemia in either arm in the carboplatin subgroup.

The onset of hypomagnesemia and accompanying electrolyte abnormalities occurred days to months after initiation of Erbitux. Periodically monitor patients for hypomagnesemia, hypocalcemia, and hypokalemia, during and for at least 8 weeks following the completion of Erbitux. Replete electrolytes as necessary.

K-Ras Testing in Metastatic or Advanced Colorectal Cancer Patients

Determination of K-Ras mutational status in colorectal tumors using an FDA-approved test indicated for this use is necessary for selection of patients for treatment with Erbitux. Erbitux is indicated only for patients with EGFR-expressing K-Ras mutation-negative (wild-type) mCRC. Erbitux is not an effective treatment for patients with colorectal cancer that harbor somatic mutations in codons 12 and 13 (exon 2). Studies 4 and 5, conducted in patients with colorectal cancer, demonstrated a benefit with Erbitux treatment only in the subset of patients whose tumors were K-Ras mutation-negative (wild-type). Erbitux is not effective for the treatment of K-Ras mutation-positive colorectal cancer as determined by an FDA-approved test for this use. [See Indications and Usage , Clinical Pharmacology , Clinical Studies .]

Perform the assesment for K-Ras mutation status in colorectal cancer in laboratories with demonstrated proficiency in the specific technology being utilized. Improper assay performance can lead to unreliable test results.

Refer to an FDA-approved test’s package insert for instructions on the identification of patients eligible for the treatment of Erbitux.

Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) Expression and Response

Because expression of EGFR has been detected in nearly all SCCHN tumor specimens, patients enrolled in the head and neck cancer clinical studies were not required to have immunohistochemical evidence of EGFR tumor expression prior to study entry.

Patients enrolled in the colorectal cancer clinical studies were required to have immunohistochemical evidence of EGFR tumor expression. Primary tumor or tumor from a metastatic site was tested with the DakoCytomation EGFR pharmDxTM test kit. Specimens were scored based on the percentage of cells expressing EGFR and intensity (barely/faint, weak-to-moderate, and strong). Response rate did not correlate with either the percentage of positive cells or the intensity of EGFR expression.



Pregnancy Category C

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of Erbitux in pregnant women. Based on animal models, EGFR has been implicated in the control of prenatal development and may be essential for normal organogenesis, proliferation, and differentiation in the developing embryo. Human IgG is known to cross the placental barrier; therefore, Erbitux may be transmitted from the mother to the developing fetus, and has the potential to cause fetal harm when administered to pregnant women. Erbitux should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Pregnant cynomolgus monkeys were treated weekly with 0.4 to 4 times the recommended human dose of cetuximab (based on body surface area) during the period of organogenesis (gestation day [GD] 20–48). Cetuximab was detected in the amniotic fluid and in the serum of embryos from treated dams at GD 49. No fetal malformations or other teratogenic effects occurred in offspring. However, significant increases in embryolethality and abortions occurred at doses of approximately 1.6 to 4 times the recommended human dose of cetuximab (based on total body surface area).

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether Erbitux is secreted in human milk. IgG antibodies, such as Erbitux, can be excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from Erbitux, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother. If nursing is interrupted, based on the mean half-life of cetuximab [see Clinical Pharmacology ], nursing should not be resumed earlier than 60 days following the last dose of Erbitux.

Pediatric Use

The safety and effectiveness of Erbitux in pediatric patients have not been established. The pharmacokinetics of cetuximab, in combination with irinotecan, were evaluated in pediatric patients with refractory solid tumors in an open-label, single-arm, dose-finding study. Erbitux was administered once-weekly, at doses up to 250 mg/m2, to 27 patients ranging from 1 to 12 years old; and in 19 patients ranging from 13 to 18 years old. No new safety signals were identified in pediatric patients. The pharmacokinetic profiles of cetuximab between the two age groups were similar at the 75 and 150 mg/m2 single dose levels. The volume of the distribution appeared to be independent of dose and approximated the vascular space of 2–3 L/m2. Following a single dose of 250 mg/m2, the geometric mean AUC0-inf (CV%) value was 17.7 mg•h/mL (34%) in the younger age group (1–12 years, n=9) and 13.4 mg•h/mL (38%) in the adolescent group (13–18 years, n=6). The mean half-life of cetuximab was 110 hours (range 69 to 188 hours) for the younger age group, and 82 hours (range 55 to 117 hours) for the adolescent age group.

Geriatric Use

Of the 1662 patients who received Erbitux with irinotecan, FOLFIRI or Erbitux monotherapy in six studies of advanced colorectal cancer, 588 patients were 65 years of age or older. No overall differences in safety or efficacy were observed between these patients and younger patients.

Clinical studies of Erbitux conducted in patients with head and neck cancer did not include sufficient number of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects.

Page last updated: 2013-08-01

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