Dr. Schoenfeld on Synergy Between Radiation and Immunotherapy in SCCHN

Jonathan D. Schoenfeld, MD, MPH, physician, assistant professor of Radiation Oncology, Harvard Medical School, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, discusses a prospective study which looked at the potential synergy between radiation therapy, given with or without chemotherapy, and immune checkpoint inhibitors in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).

Chemotherapy and radiation have long been appreciated for their immunosuppressive effects, says Schoenfeld. It is known that when a patient is treated with radiation or chemotherapy, a decrease in cytopenia and lymphocytes occurs.

Certain types of chemotherapy and radiation, given in the proper circumstance, can cause immunogenic cell death, says Schoenfeld. That can possibly synergize with the newer types of immune checkpoint blockade that are being developed.

In his study, Schoenfeld saw an increase in T cells expressed in the PD-1 receptor. This could potentially be targeted with new checkpoint inhibitors that target the PD-1 receptor.

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