Researchers reported a number of important findings in the treatment of oral, neck and head cancers at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology:

Induction chemotherapy effective in treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Induction chemotherapy with cisplatin followed by the combination of chemotherapy and radiation appeared to offer survival benefits for people with locally advanced nasopharyngeal carcinoma, compared with the combination of chemotherapy and radiation alone.

What Patients Need to Know

The results of a phase III randomized trial showed no significant difference in the rate of serious adverse events in the group that received induction chemotherapy.

Superior overall survival demonstrated by pembrolizumab as initial treatment of SCCHN

The final analysis from the phase III KEYNOTE-048 trial showed that the immunotherapy pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy demonstrated superior overall survival as an initial treatment for squamous cell cancer of the head and neck (SCCHN), as compared to a regimen of cisplatin, 5-FU and cetuximab. Pembrolizumab blocks the programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) pathway, which cancer cells can use to hide from cells that attack and destroy them.

What Patients Need to Know

In June 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pembrolizumab, in combination with the chemotherapy regimen 5-FU, as treatment for SCCHN.

PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor evaluated as treatment for metastatic nasopharyngeal cancer

A phase II trial is evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the immunotherapy toripalimab in treatment of metastatic nasopharyngeal cancer that has not responded to other therapies. Toripalimab, like pembrolizumab, is a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor.

What Patients Need to Know

In the trial, toripalimab demonstrated encouraging clinical activity and a manageable safety profile, especially in patients who had received only one prior line of therapy.