Globetrotting Head and Neck Cancer Show Hits 8 Countries

Targeted Therapies in OncologyFebruary 2017
Volume 6
Issue 2

The International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies recently completed its fourth tour, with 8 experts in the field of head and neck oncology traveling to 8 countries over a month to offer continuing medical education courses on treatment paradigms and surgical techniques in head and neck cancer across the world.

Jatin P. Shah, MD

One morning during a meeting of the North American Skull Base Society in 2005, Jatin P. Shah, MD, turned to his colleagues Patrick Gullane, MB, and William Wei, MD, MS, during a coffee break and asked, “If Michael Jackson can take the show on the road, why can’t we take our show on the road, too? If Celine Dion can go and sing in 10 countries, why can’t we take head and neck surgery [around the world, too]?” With that, the idea for the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies’ (IFHNOS) World Tour program had begun.

The organization recently completed its fourth tour, with 8 experts in the field of head and neck oncology traveling to 8 countries over a month to offer continuing medical education courses on treatment paradigms and surgical techniques in head and neck cancer across the world.

By traveling to other countries, these experts can share with other physicians and surgeons, or those training to become head and neck surgeons, the standard practices and treatment options in head and neck cancer.

“The concept was that many young people cannot travel to Europe or to the United States to attend these international meetings, it’s expensive for them—the cost of travel, hotels, and registration. This way, we bring state-of-the-art knowledge and know-how within their reach,” said Shah, a surgeon and the Elliot W. Strong Chair in Head and Neck Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the founder and CEO of IFHNOS, a body of international head and neck socities.

Shah explained that the 2.5-day program on each stop of the tour is broken up into 90-minute presentations on each tumor type. The presentations include a 30-minute lecture from a traveling faculty member followed by case presentations from local faculty, which are discussed among the faculty members and audience. Each evening, the faculty offers a 2-hour session on operative strategies in head and neck surgery, showing optimal techniques and answering procedural questions.

“The people who travel are experts in head and neck oncology,” Shah said. The tour offers attendees the opportunities to learn directly from these leaders in the field, and afterward, the students have reported to the organizers that they learned more from the course than they would have from studying a textbook for 6 months, Shah commented. He hopes that, in turn, the program will affect the care that their patients receive.

Industry members partner with IFHNOS to subsidize the experts’ international travel, making the tour possible. “The industry support for the program has been excellent,” Shah said. The gold sponsors of the world tour in 2016 were IRX Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company developing immunotherapy agents, and Medtronic, a company focused on building medical devices to extend life and restore health; and the platinum partner was Ignyta, a manufacturer of drugs targeting specific mutations in various solid tumors, including head and neck cancer.

Entrectinib (RXDX-101), a potent inhibitor of NTRK, ROS1, and ALK fusions from Ignyta, is being investigated in the global phase II STARTRK-2 basket trial of patients with solid tumors harboring these gene fusions (NCT02568267). In 2 phase I trials, entrectinib showed a combined 79% response rate in patients harboring these fusions,1including a dramatic 89% reduction in tumor burden in a patient with metastatic mammary analog secretory carcinoma of the salivary gland.2

With the World Tour program, and other initiatives, IFHNOS supports research such as this toward advancing the eld and the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer. In addition to the World Tour program, the federation also organizes a World Congress every 4 years in a different country, takes part in World Head and Neck Cancer Day on July 27, and offers an online fellowship.

“It’s been a very successful exercise,” Shah said of the World Tour program thus far, with positive responses received from the hundreds of attendees at each location they have visited as they travel the world to share information and knowledge about head and neck cancer.

Going forward, the tour will occur yearly over 2 weeks with the next taking place November 2 to 19, 2017, in Milan, Italy; Bangalore, India; Kao Hsiung, Taiwan; and Santiago, Chile.


  1. Drilon A, De Braud FG, Siena S, et al. Entrectinib, an oral pan-Trk, ROS1, and ALK inhibitor in TKI-na ve patients with advanced solid tumors harboring gene rearrangements—updated phase 1 results. Presented at: 2016 AACR Annual Meeting; April 16-20, 2016; New Orleans, LA. Abstract CT007.
  2. Drilon A, Li G, Drogan S, et al. What hides behind the MASC: clinical response and acquired resistance to entrectinib after ETV6-NTRK3 identi cation in a mammary analogue secretory carcinoma (MASC). Ann Oncol. 2016;27(5):920-926. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdw042.
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