BACKGROUND:Patients with recurrent and/or metastatic (R/M) head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) receiving platinum-based chemotherapy as their first-line treatment have a dismal prognosis, with a median overall survival (OS) of ~7 months. Methotrexate is sometimes used following platinum failure or in patients not fit enough for platinum therapy, but this agent has not demonstrated any OS improvement. Targeted therapies are a novel approach, with the EGFR-targeting monoclonal antibody cetuximab (plus platinum-based chemotherapy) approved in the US and Europe in the first-line R/M setting, and as monotherapy following platinum failure in the US. However, there is still a high unmet medical need for new treatments that improve outcomes in the second-line R/M setting following failure on first-line platinum-containing regimens. Afatinib, an irreversible ErbB family blocker, was recently approved for the first-line treatment of EGFR mutation-positive metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. Afatinib has also shown clinical activity similar to cetuximab in a Phase II proof-of-concept HNSCC trial. Based on these observations, the Phase III, LUX-Head & Neck 1 study is evaluating afatinib versus methotrexate in R/M HNSCC patients following progression on platinum-based chemotherapy in the R/M setting. METHODS/DESIGN:Patients with progressive disease after one first-line platinum-based chemotherapy are randomised 2:1 to oral afatinib (starting dose 40 mg once daily) or IV methotrexate (starting dose 40 mg/m(2) once weekly) administered as monotherapy with best supportive care until progression or intolerable adverse events. Efficacy of afatinib versus methotrexate will be assessed in terms of progression-free survival (primary endpoint). Disease progression will be evaluated according to RECIST v1.1 by investigator and independent central review. Secondary endpoints include OS, tumour response and safety. Health-related quality of life and biomarker assessments will also be performed. DISCUSSION:If the LUX-Head & Neck 1 trial meets its primary endpoint, it will demonstrate the ability of afatinib to elicit an improved treatment benefit versus a commonly used chemotherapy agent in the second-line treatment of R/M HNSCC patients who have failed on first-line platinum-based therapy, confirm the clinical efficacy of afatinib observed in the Phase II proof-of-concept study, and establish a new standard of care for this patient population.