Dr. Joshua M. Bauml on the Impact of Pembrolizumab in Head and Neck Cancer

Joshua M. Bauml, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Veteran's Administration Medical Center, discusses how the approval of pembrolizumab, as well as the use of other immunotherapies, has impacted treatment options for head and neck cancer.

Pembrolizumab is going to play a critical role in head and neck cancer, he says. The other agents that are available for the recurrent or metastatic patient population have limited efficacy, and are associated with significant toxicities. This is a clear improvement for this patient population with limited options, he adds.

Any patient who has recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer is going to eventually receive an immunotherapy if they survive long enough, says Bauml. Prior to this approval, there were limited tools in the toolbox for these patients. They had the option of receiving platinum-base chemotherapy and cetuximab, but if they still had recurrent disease after that there were no good options. Many patients had already received cetuximab in the locally advanced setting and had even less options in the recurrent setting, says Baulm.