Immunotherapy Shows Promise In Advanced Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer

Tanguy Seiwert, MD Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medicine Associate Director, Head and Neck Cancer Program Section of Hematology/Oncology Fellow, Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology Speciality Chief Editor, Frontiers in Head and Neck Cancer University of Chicago Chicago, IL 60637MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Tanguy Seiwert, MD
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medicine
Associate Director, Head and Neck Cancer Program
Section of Hematology/Oncology
Fellow, Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology
Speciality Chief Editor
Frontiers in Head and Neck Cancer
University of Chicago Chicago, IL 60637

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Seiwert: Recurrent/metastatic Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC) remains poorly treatable with a median OS of 10-13 months

There is evidence of a  prominent immune escape observed in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) suggesting that anti-PD1 agents (similar to e.g. melanoma) may be active.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Seiwert:

  • One in four patients with Head/Neck cancer treated with pembrolizumab showed marked tumor shrinkage (so called – partial/complete responses), and 57% of patients experienced any decrease in the size of their tumors.
  • Pembrolizumab is broadly active in both HPV(-) and HPV(+) types of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
  • Pemborliuzmab treatment is active in heavily pretreated squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck patients.
  • Responses seem to be durable è 86% of responding patients remain in response.

Treatment overall was well tolerated with less than 10% of patients experiencing severe side effects (≥Grade 3).

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Seiwert:

  • Immunotherapy with Pembrolizumab is active in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, in fact seem to be about twice as active as our currently best targeted therapy – cetuximab.
  • There is a high chances that pembrolizumab and similar agents will play a significant role in the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck patients in the near future, as such agents may hold potential to prolong life. Phase III studies have been initiated.
  • This is the largest experience of Immunotherapy in SCCHN (N=132 patients

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Seiwert: • Given the early, and strong signal of activity – current patients with HNC should be considered for paticipation in clinical trials with immunotherapy agents such as pembrolizumab

  • Biomarkers will likely help us further identify which patients are most likely to benefit. In fact in a related abstract a novel biomarker in the form of an immune signature showed great promise accurately predicting patients with or without benefit, and further validation of this new test is ongoing.

Citation:

2015 ASCO abstract:

Antitumor activity and safety of pembrolizumab in patients (pts) with advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN): Preliminary results from KEYNOTE-012 expansion cohort

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Tanguy Seiwert, MD Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medicine, Associate Director, Head and Neck Cancer Program, Section of Hematology/Oncology, Fellow, Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology, Speciality Chief Editor, Frontiers in Head and Neck Cancer, & University of Chicago Chicago, IL 60637 (2015). Immunotherapy Shows Promise In Advanced Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer