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The Introduction of Immunotherapy to the Treatment of Head and Neck Cancers

Ezra Cohen, MD
Published Online:4:09 PM, Tue February 5, 2019

Ezra Cohen, MD, associate director, Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, discusses the advancing field of immunotherapy in the treatment landscape for patients with head and neck cancers. Prior to the use of PD-1/PD-L1 blockades, which have been the most tested immunotherapy in this setting, there were little treatment options.

Typical first-line treatment included a platinum-based doublet or triplet, which was considered an extreme regimen, says Cohen. While this had response rates around 30% and a median overall survival of about 10 months, it was still better than that with single-agent chemotherapy.

For those who had progressed, they received either single-agent chemotherapy or cetuximab, but the efficacy dropped significantly. Cohen says it is interesting to realize this wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Many therapies and agents were tested but most studies failed until the introduction of immunotherapy to the field.
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