Rationale for Evaluating STING Agonists in Head and Neck Cancer

April 27, 2020

Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD, discusses the rationale for evaluating STING agonists as treatment for patients with head and neck cancers.

Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Hillman Cancer Center; Hillman Professor of Oncology; associate vice chancellor for cancer research; professor of otolaryngology, immunology, and radiation oncology; co-director, Tumor Microenvironment Center, discusses the rationale for evaluating STING agonists as treatment for patients with head and neck cancers. ADU-S100/MIW815, in particular, is under evaluation in combination with the checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda) in the phase II ADU-CL-20 clinical trial for patients with PD-L1–positive recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

The compound is a proinflammatory agonist that stimulates the STING pathway, says Ferris. Data have shown that the STING pathway is an important inflammatory pathway in a number of epithelial cancers, including head and neck cancer.

Data suggest that intralesional and intratumoral injection with a STING agonist, such as ADU-S100/MIW815 and other compounds that stimulate the STING pathway, can trigger beneficial inflammation and draw immune cells into the tumor microenvironment, says Ferris. This was the rationale for evaluating this agent in combination with an immune checkpoint inhibitor in the phase II study.

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