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New Studies Focus on Head and Neck Cancers

Mar 29, 2016 10:55AM ● By MED Magazine

Two new clinical trials at Sanford are focused on patients with head and neck cancers.

Oncologist and researchers Steven Powell, MD, is heading up a new trial of the investigational

  immune checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab to evaluate its ability to activate the immune system and boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation.

Participants in this study will receive standard of care chemotherapy and radiation in addition to pembrolizumab. The goal of the study is to evaluate the safety and efficacy of adding this immunotherapy to standard therapy to improve long-term outcomes. After 18 months from initial treatment, annual evaluations will be conducted to monitor each patient’s cancer status or recurrence.

Pembrolizumab was developed by Merck and is FDA-approved for melanoma and certain types of lung cancer. Participants for this study must be at least 18 years old and have advanced stages of squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx or larynx.

The pembrolizumab trial is the product of laboratory research performed at Sanford by Powell and the head and neck cancer research team led by John Lee, MD, and W. Chad Spanos, MD.

At the same time, Dr. Spanos is leading a separate trial of the PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab for not

  only head and neck cancers but also on Merkel cell, gynecological and gastric cancers. Spanos practices at the Sanford Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic in Sioux Falls and runs a cancer biology lab that focuses on head and neck cancers caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).

“When used with other treatment methods, nivolumab has shown promise in managing other types of cancers.” says Spanos.

Participants in the nivolumab trial must be at least 18 years old and have confirmed carcinoma of specific solid tumor types or progressive metastatic or recurrent cancer that has been treated with no more than two prior therapies or regimens.