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Barbara Burtness, MD, professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology); Disease Aligned Research Team Leader, Head and Neck Cancers Program; co-director, Developmental Therapeutics Research Program; of Yale Cancer Center, discusses the future of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer.
Barbara Burtness, MD, professor of Medicine, Medical Oncology, Disease Aligned Research Team Leader, Head and Neck Cancers Program, co-director, Developmental Therapeutics Research Program, Yale Cancer Center, discusses the future of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer.
The logical next step in bringing immunotherapy to the clinic would be to evaluate validated immunotherapy combinations. However, these approaches have not panned out in patients with head and neck cancer, says Burtness. There is a lot of interest in exploring inducible T-cell costimulatory targets and co-inhibitory targets such as OX40. In human papillomavirus-associated cancer, combinations of vaccines and PD-1 inhibitors have shown strong signals of activity.
There is also a lot of interest in exploring the combination of immunotherapy and targeted therapy. There have not been an abundance of data to emerge in this setting, but there are trials evaluating immunotherapeutic agents with cetuximab (Erbitux). Antiangiogenic agents such as ramucirumab (Cyramza), bevacizumab (Avastin), and lenvatinib (Lenvima) also appear to be promising targeted therapies worth exploring in combination with immunotherapy, says Burtness. Moving forward, Burtness is hopeful that the field will place greater emphasis on personalized and sequential treatment strategies.