Dr. Burtness on Emerging Immunotherapies in Head and Neck Cancer

Barbara Burtness, MD
Published: Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016



Barbara A. Burtness, MD, professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology), clinical research program leader, Head and Neck Cancers Program, co-director, Developmental Therapeutics Research Program, Yale Cancer Center, discusses emerging immunotherapies and ongoing clinical trials in head and neck cancer.

Immunotherapy agents began being investigated for the treatment of head and neck cancer about 2 to 3 years ago, Burtness explains. Results of the Keystone-012 trial, which examined pembrolizumab in patients with HPV-positive/HPV-negative disease, demonstrated an overall response rate (ORR) of 25%. Evidence suggests that if PD-L1 or PD-L2 expression is present, ORR may be higher. There are now ongoing phase III trials examining the agent in platinum-refractory disease and as a first-line therapy compared with chemotherapy.

Ongoing trials are also investigating MEDI4736, which has demonstrated a 50% ORR in a subset of PD-L1 positive patients. MEDI4736 is also being examined in combination with tremelimumab. Finally, results of a phase III trial looking at nivolumab in patients with platinum-refractory disease can be expected some time in 2016.



Barbara A. Burtness, MD, professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology), clinical research program leader, Head and Neck Cancers Program, co-director, Developmental Therapeutics Research Program, Yale Cancer Center, discusses emerging immunotherapies and ongoing clinical trials in head and neck cancer.

Immunotherapy agents began being investigated for the treatment of head and neck cancer about 2 to 3 years ago, Burtness explains. Results of the Keystone-012 trial, which examined pembrolizumab in patients with HPV-positive/HPV-negative disease, demonstrated an overall response rate (ORR) of 25%. Evidence suggests that if PD-L1 or PD-L2 expression is present, ORR may be higher. There are now ongoing phase III trials examining the agent in platinum-refractory disease and as a first-line therapy compared with chemotherapy.

Ongoing trials are also investigating MEDI4736, which has demonstrated a 50% ORR in a subset of PD-L1 positive patients. MEDI4736 is also being examined in combination with tremelimumab. Finally, results of a phase III trial looking at nivolumab in patients with platinum-refractory disease can be expected some time in 2016.




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Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Clinical Interchange™: Translating Research to Inform Changing Paradigms: Assessment of Emerging Immuno-Oncology Strategies and Combinations across Lung, Head and Neck, and Bladder CancersOct 31, 20182.0
Community Practice Connections™: Precision Medicine for Community Oncologists: Assessing the Role of Tumor-Testing Technologies in Cancer CareNov 30, 20181.0
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