Barbara Burtness, MD, discusses the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer.
Barbara Burtness, MD, a professor of medicine; the interim associate Cancer Center director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Disease Aligned Research team leader of the Head and Neck Cancers Program; and co-leader of Developmental Therapeutics at Yale Cancer Center, discusses the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer.
An unanswered question in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer, specifically those with human papillomavirus (HPV)–associated oropharynx cancer and Epstein-Barr virus–associated nasopharynx cancer, is how immune checkpoint inhibitors fit into the management of curable-stage disease, Burtness says. Data have shown that the addition of a PD-1 inhibitor to treatment will improve outcomes in the recurrent metastatic setting, Burtness notes.
Additionally, the assumption has been that treatment-naïve cancer will be more accessible to the immune system, and as such, the response to checkpoint inhibitors be better, Burtness adds. Favorable response rates have been achieved with PD-1 inhibitors when given as preoperative therapy in patients with head and neck cancer, including those with HPV-associated disease, Burtness concludes.