Immunotherapy extends lives of patients with head and neck cancer
Image: Drugs for a clinical trial
The ICR’s researchers showed that a new immunotherapy could greatly extend the lives of people with advanced head and neck cancer, with some living for over three years.
They evaluated the drug – pembrolizumab – in a trial of nearly 500 patients with very advanced disease that had already spread and become resistant to chemotherapy.
Treatment options for these patients are extremely limited, and they are normally expected to survive for less than six months.
Overall, patients who received pembrolizumab experienced significant benefits – with 37 per cent surviving for a year or more, compared with only 26.5 per cent of those on standard care, consisting of chemotherapy or the targeted agent cetuximab.
Some 36 patients saw their cancer partially or completely disappear, and some were still cancer-free three years after first receiving pembrolizumab.
Study leader Professor Kevin Harrington, Professor of Biological Cancer Therapies at The ICR and Consultant at The Royal Marsden, said:
“I would like to see pembrolizumab approved for use in the clinic, so that people with metastatic head and neck cancer can be offered the chance of a longer life and improved quality of life.”
The trial, published in The Lancet, was funded by Merck & Co., Inc.