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Targeted therapies have proven beneficial for patients suffering from a number of different malignancies, including cancers of the head and neck. Cetuximab, a monoclonal antibody targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor has shown benefit in combination with radiation for untreated patients or as a single agent for patients with platinum resistant disease. Cetuximab is the only targeted agent currently approved by the Federal Drug Administration for the treatment of head and neck cancer. A number of other agents have shown promising initial results including intracellular tyrosine kinase inhibitors, agents targeting vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, as well as other classes of novel therapies. Some of the data supporting the use of targeted therapy, including agents not yet approved in head and neck cancer, will be presented in this review. As our understanding of the cancer cell signaling pathways and novel targeted agents increases, the potential for treatment with reduced toxicity and improved clinical outcomes will become a reality.
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