Trial shows immunotherapy drug improved overall survival in certain head and neck cancers

The randomized phase lll trial CheckMate 141 trial showed that the immunotherapy nivolumab improved overall survival in patients with current or metastatic head and neck cancer when compared with a single-agent chemotherapy.

What Patients Need to Know

CheckMate 141 compared nivolumab to one of three single-agent chemotherapies (cetuximab, methotrexate, or docetaxel) in 361 patients with disease that had progressed within 6 months of platinum-based therapy. Overall survival was determined to be significantly longer with nivolumab compared with the standard single-agent chemotherapy.

Immunotherapy being evaluated in first-line setting for recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinomas

Results are pending from the global, multi-center, phase lll KESTREL trial that evaluated the immunotherapy durvalumab, with or without the immunotherapy tremelimumab, as a first-line treatment for recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.

Durvalumab was compared with the standard treatment of platinum-based chemotherapy plus cetuximab, another type of chemotherapy.

What Patients Need to Know

The results of the KESTREL trial are highly anticipated, as immunotherapy in the first-line setting is a new approach in the treatment of head and neck cancers. The primary endpoints of the trial are progression-free survival and overall survival.

Effectiveness of chemotherapy and immunotherapy studied in patients with certain forms of oropharyngeal cancer

The ongoing phase II trial OPTIMA is evaluating the effectiveness of the chemotherapies nab-paclitaxel and carboplatin followed by the immunotherapy nivolumab in treating patients with stage III or IV human papillomavirus (HPV)-related oropharyngeal cancer (cancer that forms in the tissues of the throat). Depending on the response to this initial regimen, patients receive a specific form and dose of radiation or chemoradiotherapy.

What Patients Need to Know

Giving nab-paclitaxel and carboplatin followed by nivolumab may make tumors smaller, reducing the amount of chemotherapy and radiation therapy subsequently needed. Giving lower doses of radiation or chemoradiotherapy to patients who are responding well to the initial regimen may help reduce the occurrence of side effects.