Erbitux to Treat Colon Cancer

Christina Dodd 

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer that affects people not only in the United States but also across the globe. This type of cancer kills 655,000 people across the globe on an annual basis, 55,000 of those deaths occur in the United States each year with 120,000 new cases being diagnosed in the country annually. Colon cancer can be prevented if the benign tumors that can develop in the colon are found early on in the process. The methods used to find the onset of colon cancer include colonoscopies, virtual colonoscopies, a colon x-ray, a fecal occult blood test and many other methods. Doctors will use surgery, chemotherapy, and medication to treat colon cancer once it is diagnosed. One of those drugs used in the treatment process is Erbitux.

The drug is manufactured by Merck, which is based in Darmstadt, Germany. Merck performed a study using Erbitux on patients that suffer from the disease colon cancer and found that patients with a normal version of the KRAS gene lived an average of 3.5 months longer than the patients that were treated solely with chemotherapy. This information from Merck was released on September 23, 2009 at the European Cancer Organization and European Society for Medical Oncology. The study also showed that patients taking Erbitux had an overall median survival rate of 23.5 months compared to a median survival of 20 months for the patients only receiving chemotherapy treatments and not both chemotherapy and the drug Erbitux.

Erbitux was approved for the treatment of colon cancer by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004 and it is in the category of a new class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies. Other drugs that fall into this category include Avastin and a drug named Vectibix, which was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration in 2007. An antibody is a substance that is produced by the body to protect against harmful objects such as bacteria or viruses. An antibody will stick to the invader within the body and help to destroy it before it causes harm to the person. A monoclonal antibody is an antibody created in a lab and placed into the body to attack a specific target and destroy that target. Monoclonal antibodies are so precise that experts and doctors hope that they will become a more effective way to treat cancerous tumors while also having fewer side effects like chemotherapy.

The possible side effects of using Erbitux include one or more of the following:

  • Skin problems such as acne, rash, and dry skin. Some skin reactions might actually mean that the drug is working against the cancer.
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Fever
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Reactions while the drug is being given

If you suffer from colon cancer, you should consult with your doctor about possibly receiving a prescription for Erbitux to help treat the disease. Your doctor will be able to determine whether or not the drug will work against colon cancer depending on the stage your cancer is at when prescribed.