Targeted Therapy for Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancers

As researchers have learned more about the changes in cells that cause cancer, they have been able to develop newer drugs that specifically target these changes. Targeted drugs work differently from standard chemo drugs. They often have different (and less severe) side effects. This type of drug has not been well studied for treating nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers.

Cetuximab (Erbitux®) is a monoclonal antibody (a man-made version of an immune system protein) that targets epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a protein on the surface of certain cells that helps them grow and divide. Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer cells often have higher than normal amounts of EGFR. By blocking EGFR, cetuximab can slow or stop cell growth.

Cetuximab may be combined with radiation therapy for some earlier stage cancers. For more advanced cancers, it may be combined with standard chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin, or it may be used by itself.

Cetuximab is given by infusion into a vein (IV), usually once a week. A rare but serious side effect of cetuximab is an allergic reaction during the first infusion, which could cause breathing problems and low blood pressure. You may be given medicine before treatment to help prevent this. Many people develop skin problems such as an acne-like rash on the face and chest during treatment, which in some cases can lead to infections. Other side effects may include headache, tiredness, fever, and diarrhea.

Other targeted therapy drugs to treat nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers are being studied now.

For more information on drugs considered targeted therapy, see our document Targeted Cancer Therapy.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: April 22, 2014 Last Revised: August 8, 2016

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