Ezra Cohen, MD
The future of immunotherapy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) lies in combinations involving anti PD-1/PD-L1 agents, says Ezra Cohen, MD, adding that chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy may have a role, as well.
, Cohen, professor of medicine, division of Hematology/Oncology, University of California, San Diego, associate director for Translational Science, Moores Cancer Center, discussed anti–PD-1/PD-L1 combination regimens in HNSCC, the potential for CAR T-cell therapy, and remaining challenges with immunotherapy in the field.
OncLive: What is the current role of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer?
When we talk about immunotherapy in head and neck cancer, we are really talking about squamous cell carcinoma where the exploration of anti–PD-1 and anti–PD-L1 has focused. Right now, we have 2 approved agents in patients with recurrent or metastatic disease—the first is pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and the second is nivolumab (Opdivo), in the order of their FDA approvals.
For now, we are using immunotherapy as standard-of-care in patients who have either recurred after curative intent therapy within 6 months of completing that therapy, or in patients who have had first-line platinum-containing therapy and have progressed. So, it’s really focused now on patients with recurrent or metastatic disease.
What combinations are being investigated?
For the future of immunotherapy in HNSCC, we are really thinking about combinatorial therapy. And what I mean by that, is now trying to integrate the agents we know have efficacy as single agents, so be it pembrolizumab, nivolumab, or even durvalumab (Imfinzi) and avelumab, (Bavencio).
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