Dr. Burtness on the Use of Immunotherapy After Chemoradiation in Head and Neck Cancer

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Barbara Burtness, MD, professor of Medicine, Yale Cancer Center, discusses the use of immunotherapy in patients with head and neck cancer who have residual disease following treatment with chemotherapy and radiation.

Barbara Burtness, MD, professor of Medicine, Yale Cancer Center, discusses the use of immunotherapy in patients with head and neck cancer who have residual disease following treatment with chemotherapy and radiation.

According to Burtness, it seems that the addition of radiation therapy can change the tumor immune microenvironment, as there are more tumor infiltrating lymphocytes and an upregulation of PD-1 expression.

An ongoing trial at Yale Cancer Center is currently looking at patients with head and neck cancer who have persistent disease after being treated with chemotherapy and radiation. These patients are being given pembrolizumab (Keytruda), the rationale being that the upregulation of PD-1 and the augmentation of the tumor infiltrating lymphocytes will create an overall better environment. It remains to be seen whether response rates do, indeed, increase with this immunotherapy treatment, says Burtness.

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