Ezra Cohen, MD
The treatment paradigm of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has evolved rapidly with the introduction of immunotherapy. Currently, the anti–PD-1 agents pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) are approved for patients who have progressed on platinum-based chemotherapy.
, Cohen, professor of medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of California, San Diego, associate director for Translational Science, Moores Cancer Center, discussed the future role of immunotherapy in the treatment of patients with HNSCC.
OncLive: What updates can you share regarding immunotherapy in head and neck cancer?
: For HNSCC, we have certainly seen some incredible advances in the last few years for immunotherapy. What is startling is that things are happening so fast. We now how 2 immunotherapy agents in head and neck cancer—nivolumab and pembrolizumab—which are approved for patients with platinum-refractory disease.
In the near term, we are going to see the first-line data for the phase III trials. Now, nivolumab and pembrolizumab are approved in platinum-refractory patients, and we are very excited to see what happens to patients who have yet to be exposed to platinum-based therapy, either alone or in combination with chemotherapy. We already have a hint that those studies may be positive.
What results are you looking forward to from the 2018 ESMO Congress?*
I have said, half-jokingly, that it is the year for head and neck cancer. I have never been as excited to attend a conference as I will be for the 2018 ESMO Congress. We know that we are going to see the KEYNOTE-048 data, which are the first-line data for pembrolizumab alone or in combination with chemotherapy versus the standard of care of platinum, 5-fluorouracil, and cetuximab (Erbitux). We already have a hint from a news release that this study, at least in part, is going to be positive.
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