Allergic reactions to cancer drug cetuximab (Erbitux) surprisingly common in south eastern states of USA

In the March 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine Dr Tom Platts-Mills, professor of internal medicine and microbiology and head of the division of allergy and clinical immunology at the University of Virginia, in Charlotteville reported that severe allergic reactions to the chemotherapy drug cetuximab appear to be significantly higher in the south eastern states of the US and associated with immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies against galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose that were present before cetuximab therapy.

The explanation for the regional distribution of IgE antibodies against galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose remains unclear, but one hypothesis is that regional exposures to histoplasmosis, ameba, tick bites, coccidioidomycosis, nematodes, or cestodes can induce IgE antibodies to oligosaccharides.

There are no recommendations for screening patients at the current time. "The company is investigating the possibility of screening, but one of the problems is that screening will probably not be recommended for individuals residing in low-risk areas," explained Dr. Platts-Mills. "It may be difficult to work out who should be screened."

For the full Medscape report

First published in March 2008


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