Immunotherapy in recurrent and
metastatic head and neck cancers is now a part of standard care. Dana-Farber
Cancer Institute’s Dr. Robert Haddad says recent studies led to the FDA
approval of treatments that combine immunotherapy drugs with chemotherapy
and that those combinations have had a profound impact on survival. But now Dr.
Haddad says researchers want to see what happens if those immunotherapies are
used before the head and neck cancer spreads or comes back. “Given the success we have seen in recurrent metastatic disease we are bringing that drug or
those combination of drugs into the neoadjuvant, prior to surgery, for those
patients.” Dr. Haddad says there are currently two trials involving
immunotherapy treatment before the tumor is removed. “I see the benefit that’s
twofold here. I see that for some of these patients we are seeing a shrinkage
of their tumor by the time they get to the operating room and also this is a
big opportunity for us to be able to look at the translational environment
for these tumors since we’re gonna have tissue from before surgery and tissue
from after we take the tumor out.” Dr. Haddad says they’re also looking into
the benefit of immunotherapy as maintenance after surgery to see if it
delays or even prevents recurrence. And in a trial unique to Dana-Farber, Dr.
Haddad says they’re exploring the use of immunotherapy
in patients with pre-malignant lesions of the mouth – lesions that are not cancer
but put patients into a very high risk category of developing cancer. “So the
idea here is to use drug therapy with immunotherapy to delay progression or to
prevent progression to cancer.” These studies in early-stage head and neck
cancers are ongoing but Dr. Haddad says he is encouraged by immunotherapy in
metastatic and recurrent disease. For Dana-Farber news. I’m Victoria Warren.