Dr. Ferris on the CheckMate-041 Trial For Head and Neck Cancer

Robert Ferris, MD, PhD
Published: Monday, Sep 24, 2018



Robert Ferris, MD, PhD, vice chair for Clinical Operations, associate director for Translational Research, and co-leader of the Cancer Immunology Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, discusses the significance of the CheckMate-041 trial for patients with head and neck cancer.

CheckMate-041 was a randomized phase III study looking at nivolumab (Opdivo) versus investigator’s choice of chemotherapy in patients with metastatic squamous carcinoma of the head and neck. Ferris says this patient population has a very poor prognosis. This was the first clinical trial to indicate that immunotherapy was more effective for these patients than the standard of care. Primary analysis was stopped early due to a positive signal at the interim data look, Ferris says.

Investigators are showing with long-term data that the benefit persists. The overall survival, Ferris says, is approximately triple what is seen with chemotherapy. Interestingly, the patients who were deemed PD-L1 negative have had improved outcomes. Ferris concludes that this justifies not looking at PD-L1 expression as an effective biomarker for immune response in these patients.
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Robert Ferris, MD, PhD, vice chair for Clinical Operations, associate director for Translational Research, and co-leader of the Cancer Immunology Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, discusses the significance of the CheckMate-041 trial for patients with head and neck cancer.

CheckMate-041 was a randomized phase III study looking at nivolumab (Opdivo) versus investigator’s choice of chemotherapy in patients with metastatic squamous carcinoma of the head and neck. Ferris says this patient population has a very poor prognosis. This was the first clinical trial to indicate that immunotherapy was more effective for these patients than the standard of care. Primary analysis was stopped early due to a positive signal at the interim data look, Ferris says.

Investigators are showing with long-term data that the benefit persists. The overall survival, Ferris says, is approximately triple what is seen with chemotherapy. Interestingly, the patients who were deemed PD-L1 negative have had improved outcomes. Ferris concludes that this justifies not looking at PD-L1 expression as an effective biomarker for immune response in these patients.

View Conference Coverage
Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Community Practice Connections™: New Directions in Advanced Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Emerging Evidence of ImmunotherapyAug 13, 20191.5
Medical Crossfire®: How Can We Optimize Outcomes in Head and Neck Cancers with Immunotherapeutic Strategies?Oct 31, 20191.5
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