Researchers reported a number of important findings in the treatment of oral, neck and head cancers at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology:

Combination therapy safe in treatment of HNSCC A phase I trial evaluated the safety of giving the immunotherapy nivolumab at the same time as radiotherapy and the targeted therapy cetuximab in treating intermediate- and high-risk local and regionally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

What Patients Need to Know

The results confirmed the safety of the combination, as there were no adverse reactions reported that interfered either with the treatment or with the subsequent nivolumab maintenance therapy.

Concurrent chemoradiation followed by metronomic chemotherapy promising approach for nasopharyngeal cancer

A phase II trial studied the effectiveness and safety of concurrent chemoradiation (CCRT) followed by capecitabine metronomic chemotherapy for the treatment of locally advanced nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). “Metronomic” refers to the continuous use of low doses of conventional chemotherapeutics, without long drug-free intervals.

What Patients Need to Know

The study found that CCRT followed by the capecitabine metronomic chemotherapy was a promising treatment approach for locally advanced NPC, and concluded that further studies should be conducted.

Combination of pembrolizumab and cetuximab found to be safe

A phase II trial evaluated the safety of combining the immunotherapy pembrolizumab with the targeted therapy cetuximab in the treatment of recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

Both pembrolizumab and cetuximab are FDA-approved as second-line monotherapy in the treatment of recurrent or metastatic HNSCC. This is the first trial to combine pembrolizumab with cetuximab and evaluate its anti-tumor effectiveness. As the combination of these two drugs had not previously been tested, a safety analysis was first completed.

What Patients Need to Know

Pembrolizumab combined with cetuximab has a very tolerable safety profile, with no dose-limiting toxicities. The trial will now go on to analyze the clinical effectiveness of this combination.

Investigational drug studied for treatment of oral mucositis

Treating head and neck cancers with radiation often leads to oral mucositis (OM), a side effect that causes severe pain, inflammation, ulceration and bleeding of the mouth. There are currently no FDA-approved drugs to treat OM.

A phase IIb trial studied the effectiveness and safety of the investigational drug GC4419 in the treatment of severe oral mucositis (SOM).

What Patients Need to Know

In the study, GC4419 met its primary “endpoint,” achieving a 92 percent reduction in the duration of SOM. The drug also demonstrated a reduction in SOM incidence and severity and was well tolerated. A phase III trial is being planned.