chemotherapy

Psychological impact of head and neck cancers

Source: pharmafield.co.uk
Author: Emma Morriss

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), in partnership with patient groups The Swallows and the Mouth Cancer Foundation, have announced the results from a patient survey into the psychological impact of head and neck cancers. The research explored the long-term burden of treatment on head and neck cancer patients.

After undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer, which can include surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, many patients report an ongoing impact on their day-to-day life. However, 55% of the 118 patients surveyed indicated they did not receive the right level of information in preparation for the complications encountered from treatment.

There are around 11,900 new head and neck cancer cases in the UK every year and the incidence of head and neck cancer has increased by 32% since the early 1990s.

Following treatment, the survey showed 56% of patients had problems with simple things like swallowing, often experiencing severe pain, while two-thirds of patients experienced changes in their voice or speech. The survey also showed self-reported change from pre- to post- treatment in vital areas including a drop in the ability to communicate (37%), memory loss (21%), and trouble sleeping (20%).

As well as physical symptoms, treatment can have severe implications on mental health too. 52% of patients reported feelings of anxiety before treatment, which only reduced to 48% following treatment. However, emotional and psychological support was only offered to 46% of patients.

A majority of patients did receive access to a clinical nurse specialist, however there was still 23% who were not offered this service. Clinical nurse specialists use their skills and expertise in cancer care to provide physical and emotional support, coordinate care services and inform and advise patients on clinical as well as practical issues, which have been shown to lead to more positive patient outcomes.

“These results show the impact treatment may have on head and neck cancer patients. The continued problems and symptoms experienced by patients after treatment significantly impacts patients’ daily life. We also know physical disfigurement can increase social anxiety. It is important that we raise the awareness of this and work together to provide solutions to improve and support patient outcomes.” said Mouth Cancer Foundation, Clinical Ambassador, Mr Mahesh Kumar.

“With the incidence of head and neck cancers increasing, it is vital we understand what we can do to help patients. We are so pleased to have worked in collaboration with BMS and the Mouth Cancer Foundation to help raise awareness of this disease and understand where patients might need more help to reduce the impact on their lives. We know head and neck cancers, and the associated complications, do not get a lot of attention so it’s crucial for awareness days such as World Head and Neck Cancer Day to be used to shine a light on the disease. By doing so, it will help to improve detection, treatment and outcomes for patients.” commented Chris Curtis, Chairman of The Swallows.

Merck’s Keytruda wins FDA approval to treat head and neck cancer

Source: Reuters
Date: June 11, 2019
Author: Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

(Reuters) – Merck & Co Inc said on Tuesday its blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat a type of head and neck cancer.

The drug was approved for use as a monotherapy, as well as in combination with a common chemotherapy regimen, to treat previously untreated patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, Merck said.

The approval is based on results from a late-stage trial, where Keytruda showed a significant improvement in overall survival in cancer patients, Merck said.

Keytruda, a type of immunotherapy called a PD-1 inhibitor, is already an approved treatment for several forms of cancer, including lung and skin cancers.

Head and neck cancer includes tumors in the mouth, tongue, nose, sinuses, throat and lymph nodes in the neck.

Merck estimates that there will be more than 65,000 new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed in 2019 in the United States.

Keytruda works by increasing the ability of patients’ immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells.

The drug has been amassing approvals as a standalone therapy and in combination with other drugs to treat several forms of cancer. It is the leading immunotherapy for treating lung cancer, ahead of rival drugs from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and AstraZeneca.

Keytruda, first approved for advanced melanoma in 2014, is Merck’s most important growth driver. It has overtaken Bristol’s Opdivo as the industry’s immuno-oncology leader with sales expected to top $10 billion this year and $20 billion in 2024, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Keytruda brought in revenue of $7.17 billion for Merck in 2018, while Bristol’s Opdivo earned $6.74 billion.

June, 2019|Oral Cancer News|

Merck’s Keytruda wins FDA approval to treat head and neck cancer

Source: www.pharmalive.com
Author: staff, Reuters Health

Merck & Co Inc said on Tuesday its blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat a type of head and neck cancer.

The drug was approved for use as a monotherapy, as well as in combination with a common chemotherapy regimen, to treat previously untreated patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, Merck said.

The approval is based on results from a late-stage trial, where Keytruda showed a significant improvement in overall survival in cancer patients, Merck said.

Keytruda, a type of immunotherapy called a PD-1 inhibitor, is already an approved treatment for several forms of cancer, including lung and skin cancers.

Head and neck cancer includes tumors in the mouth, tongue, nose, sinuses, throat and lymph nodes in the neck.

Merck estimates that there will be more than 65,000 new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed in 2019 in the United States.

Keytruda works by increasing the ability of patients’ immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells.

The drug has been amassing approvals as a standalone therapy and in combination with other drugs to treat several forms of cancer. It is the leading immunotherapy for treating lung cancer, ahead of rival drugs from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and AstraZeneca.

Keytruda, first approved for advanced melanoma in 2014, is Merck’s most important growth driver. It has overtaken Bristol’s Opdivo as the industry’s immuno-oncology leader with sales expected to top $10 billion this year and $20 billion in 2024, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Keytruda brought in revenue of $7.17 billion for Merck in 2018, while Bristol’s Opdivo earned $6.74 billion.

How do speech-language pathologists support cancer patients?

Source: syvnews.com
Author: Aundie Werner

Question: What are speech-language pathologists and how do they support cancer patients?

It is estimated that about 100,000 people will be diagnosed with a head, neck or thyroid cancer this year.

Although this does not grab headlines as often as many other cancers, for those affected the disease and treatment can have a significant impact on their lives. In general, most people survive head and neck cancer; however, side effects of treatment can sometimes be a long-term problem.

The support and guidance of a speech-language pathologist (SLP) can do much to help promote recovery and cope with the difficult symptoms of treatment. Ideally, the SLP becomes involved when the patient has been identified as having head and neck cancer before their surgery or before their chemotherapy/radiation protocol. Counseling and education are provided as to the functions of voice, speech and swallowing. Assessment is made to determine the patient’s baseline and to provide guidance as to the patient’s role in their rehabilitation.

Frequently, the SLP works with patients who have difficulty eating and drinking. Treatment is based on the cause of the problem: anatomical changes from surgery, decreased saliva, changes in taste, difficulty opening the mouth due to trismus, and problems protecting the airway, which can result in coughing and choking during meals.

Maintaining nutrition after surgery and during treatment is necessary to help the body heal. At times, the patient may need to have a feeding tube to help with nutrition when it becomes too difficult to swallow. The SLP assesses the patient’s current needs, instructs the patient in specific swallowing exercises, compensatory swallowing strategies or diet modification recommendations. The goal is for patients to continue to eat and drink during and after treatment.

Following radiation therapy, patients may experience lymphedema and/or fibrosis of the radiated tissue. These effects can persist long after the treatment concludes. Difficulties can include problems opening the mouth to eat from a spoon or fork, or decreased ability of the throat muscles to protect the airway while eating or drinking. In these cases, specific testing and exercises are instructed by the SLP.

Voice changes may also occur after surgery or radiation. The SLP instructs patients how to use their voice efficiently so as not to strain the muscles. Patients who have had their voice box removed are instructed in alternative methods to produce voicing to communicate.

Additionally, articulation and resonance changes can occur from surgery and/or radiation. Patients who have had sinus, palatal, jaw or tongue cancer are instructed how to articulate more clearly through customized treatment or prosthetic devices, if needed.

Each patient’s cancer is unique, as is the plan of care developed by the SLP. The Central Coast has excellent speech-language pathologists who are trained to provide their expertise to facilitate your road to recovery.

March, 2019|Oral Cancer News|

Immunotherapy extends the life of head and neck cancer patients

Source: Pharmatimes.com
Date: 12/3/18
Author: Anna Smith

A new immunotherapy can greatly extend the lives of a proportion of people with advanced head and neck cancer, with some living for three years or more, reports a major new clinical trial.

The study, by The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, found that the drug – MSD’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) – has been shown to have significant benefits for patients, with 37% of those who received it surviving for a year or more, compared with only 26.5% of those on standard care.

The drug was evaluated in a trial of nearly 500 patients with very advanced head and neck cancer that had spread around the body and already become resistant to platinum chemotherapy, the first-line treatment for the disease.

Some 247 patients were randomised to receive Keytruda and 248 to standard of care – chemotherapy or the targeted agent Erbitux (cetuximab).

When chemotherapy or targeted therapies stop working, treatment options for people with advanced head and neck cancer are limited, and they are normally expected to survive for less than six months.

Patients in the Keytruda arm survived for a median of 8.4 months, compared to 6.9 months with standard treatment. However, a minority of patients responded extremely well to Keytruda – 36 patients saw their cancer partially or completely disappear, and some are still cancer free three years after first receiving the drug.

“Our findings show that the immunotherapy pembrolizumab extends the life of people with advanced head and neck cancer overall, and in a group of patients has really dramatic benefits. It is also a much kinder treatment than those currently approved,” said Professor Kevin Harrington, professor of Biological Cancer Therapies at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

“I would like to see pembrolizumab approved for use in the clinic, so that people with advanced head and neck cancer can be offered the chance of a longer life and improved quality of life.

“There is also an urgent need to work out how we can identify in advance which patients are likely to benefit, given that some of these people may do much better than they do on standard treatment.”

The trial was sponsored and funded by MSD, and the results are published in The Lancet.

December, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

Standard chemotherapy treatment for HPV-positive throat cancer remains the most effective, study finds

Source: www.eurekalert.org
Author: press release, University of Birmingham

A new study funded by Cancer Research UK and led by the University of Birmingham has found that the standard chemotherapy used to treat a specific type of throat cancer remains the most effective.

The findings of the trial, which aimed to compare for the first time the outcomes of using two different kinds of treatment for patients with Human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive throat cancer, are published today (November 15th) in The Lancet.

Throat cancer is one of the fastest rising cancers in Western countries. In the UK, incidence was unchanged between 1970 and 1995, then doubled between 1996 and 2006, and doubled again between 2006 and 2010. The rise has been attributed to HPV, which is often a sexually transmitted infection. Most throat cancers were previously caused by smoking and alcohol and affected 65 to 70 year old working class men. Today, HPV is the main cause of throat cancer and patients are middle class, working, have young children and are aged around 55.

HPV-positive throat cancer responds well to a combination of cisplatin chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and patients can survive for 30 to 40 years, but the treatment causes lifelong side effects including dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, and loss of taste.

The De-ESCALaTE HPV study, which was sponsored by the University of Warwick, compared the side effects and survival of 164 patients who were treated with radiotherapy and cisplatin, and 162 who were given radiotherapy and cetuximab. The patients were enrolled between 2012 and 2016 at 32 centres in the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands. Patients were randomly allocated to be treated with radiotherapy and either cisplatin or cetuximab. Eight in ten patients were male and the average age was 57 years.

Importantly, the results found that there was very little difference between the two drugs in terms of toxicity in patients and side effects such as dry mouth, however, there was a significant difference in the survival rates and recurrences of cancer in patients taking part in the trial.

They found that the patients who received the current standard chemotherapy cisplatin had a significantly higher two-year overall survival rate (97.5%) than those on cetuximab (89.4%). During the six-year study, there were 29 recurrences and 20 deaths with cetuximab, compared to 10 recurrences of cancer and six deaths in patients who were treated with the current standard chemotherapy cisplatin.

And cancer was three times more likely to recur in two years following treatment with cetuximab compared to cisplatin, with recurrence rates of 16.1 per cent versus six per cent, respectively.

Study lead Professor Hisham Mehanna, Director of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Head and Neck Studies and Education, said: “Many patients have been receiving cetuximab with radiotherapy on the assumption that it was as effective as cisplatin chemotherapy with radiotherapy and caused fewer side effects but there has been no head-to-head comparison of the two treatments.

“Cetuximab did not cause less toxicity and resulted in worse overall survival and more cancer recurrence than cisplatin.

“This was a surprise – we thought it would lead to the same survival rates but better toxicity. Patients with throat cancer who are HPV positive should be given cisplatin, and not cetuximab, where possible.”

Dr Emma King, Cancer Research UK Associate Professor in head and neck surgery at the University of Southampton, said: “Studies like this are essential for us to optimise treatments for patients. We now know that for HPV-positive throat cancer, the standard chemotherapy treatment remains the most effective option.

“However, we must keep testing new alternatives to ensure patients always have access to cutting-edge and kinder treatments. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can leave head and neck cancer patients with long term pain and difficulties swallowing, so we should always strive to minimise side effects.”

Professor Janet Dunn from the University of Warwick, whose team ran the De-ESCALaTE HPV trial, said: “In the current trend for de-escalation of treatment, the results of the De-ESCALaTE HPV trial are very important as they were not as we expected. They do highlight the need for academic clinical trials and are an acknowledgement of the key role played by Warwick Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Warwick as the co-ordination and analysis centre for this important international trial.”

The patients on the De-ESCALaTE trial Steering Committee endorsed the importance of research findings.

Malcom Babb, who is also President of the National Association of Laryngectomee Clubs, said: “From a patient perspective, De-ESCALaTE has been a success by providing definitive information about the comparative effectiveness of treatment choices.”

November, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

A Look at Therapy Toxicities & Biology in Head & Neck Cancers

Source: journals.lww.com
Author: Valerie Neff Newitt

A measure of intrigue and discovery pertaining to head and neck cancer, spiked with compassion for patients struggling against treatment toxicities, helps quench the intellectual thirst of Yvonne Mowery, MD, PhD, Butler Harris Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.

Splitting time between the clinic and laboratory, Mowery is actively engaged in patient care as well as preclinical, translational, and clinical research. “I hope to get a better understanding of the biology of head and neck cancer and determine pathways that we can target to reduce metastatic spread of the disease and improve responsiveness to available treatments,” she told Oncology Times.

Long before reaching her current status as an award-winning investigator, Mowery grew up in Richmond, Va., in the midst of a “completely non-scientific” family. “I was an oddball,” she joked, while recalling her parents’ patience with her backyard composting experiments that became so foul-smelling that the health department was contacted. As a kid, her idea of a great present was an encyclopedia of science, and the thing that caught her eye at the toy store was a junior chemistry set.

Science was clearly her path when she headed to the University of Virginia. In her sophomore year, Mowery began working in a genetics lab. That’s where the lure of fruit flies took hold. “I looked at the development of their reproductive system and found that very interesting,” she recalled.

Nearing the completion of her undergraduate education, Mowery debated between attending medical school or graduate school. The eventual winner? Both. “I investigated physician-scientist training programs and arrived at Duke in 2004 to do a combined MD/PhD.” Today, Mowery spends 1 day a week in clinic where she sees patients, then moves to the lab for the remainder of the week to find strategies to improve patient care and develop therapies to deliver better outcomes for patients, both present and future.

Clinical Challenges
“I treat cancers primarily of the head and neck—such as oral cavity, larynx, tonsils, base of tongue, sinuses—with radiation therapy. I think of head and neck cancers as being in a ‘very high-stakes real estate’ area,” she said, “because they are often close to saliva glands, vocal cords, etc. This requires intricate planning for radiation treatment. Visualization of the tumor through fiberoptic laryngoscopy allows me to see a tumor responding to radiation and chemotherapy during the weeks of treatment; it is gratifying to watch it happen with your own eyes.”

Mowery said toxicity associated with treatment of this area of the body can be severe, partially due to the fact that it is typically “…one of the longer courses of radiation that we do—about 7 weeks, 5 days a week,” she explained. “Patients typically require pain medicine to eat and drink a soft diet, lose their sense of taste, and experience very dry mouth, sometimes requiring a feeding tube for nutrition. In addition, the skin on their neck often falls off.” Comparing it to severe sunburn, Mowery said skin typically blisters and peels off, leaving behind a neck that is “red, angry, and very uncomfortable. It just comes with the territory.”

In addition to these side effects, Mowery said there is also an unusual biological aspect to head and neck cancers which figures largely in her work. “Something very interesting scientifically drew me to these cancers,” she informed. “There are two main causes of cancer in this area: tobacco use and human papillomavirus (HPV). Outcomes for patients with HPV-positive oropharynx cancers are excellent; even when the cancer is locally advanced about 80-90 percent of patients are cured. But the tobacco-induced cancers, by contrast, do much worse (about 60% or less survival rate for locally advanced disease). Even if the tumor size is the same and the number of involved lymph nodes are the same, the biology is completely different for the HPV-related and the HPV-unrelated disease.”

In fact, the staging system was changed at the beginning of this year so that HPV-related cancers and HPV-negative cancers are staged differently. “HPV-positive cancers that used to be staged at IVA may now be staged at I or II, but they remain at stage IVA if the cancer is HPV-negative,” Mowery detailed.

Asked why tobacco-related cancer behaves so badly, Mowery answered, “We do not have a good understanding of that; it is something I am studying. We do know, however, that HPV-negative tumors exhibit a loss of function of the p53 gene, [which] is really the king of all tumor suppressors. In HPV-related tumors, p53 is usually genetically still intact but its activity is affected by HPV.”

She also commented that people still actively smoking during treatment tend to do much worse, likely due in part to having lower oxygen levels in the tumor, which in turn causes the radiation to work less effectively. “If we can figure out ways to make HPV-negative tumors behave more like HPV-positive tumors, outcomes would improve.”

From Clinic to Research
These realities on the clinical side have informed and inspired some of Mowery’s research efforts. One of her projects aims at reducing the toxicity of treatment while maintaining good outcomes in patients.

“A clinical trial that I am about to start will use PET/CT, a type of metabolic imaging, as an early litmus test to evaluate how patients are responding during treatment. If we find they are responding well, we will de-intensify and back off on the chemotherapy and radiation dose while still trying to achieve good outcomes,” Mowery explained.

She noted that because HPV-positive and HPV-negative cancers are still treated exactly the same way when not on a clinical trial, investigators also hope to find out if treatment can be de-intensified for the HPV-positive patients who tend to have more successful outcomes by virtue of their cancer type, thus allowing them to avoid some of the severe side effects.

“Of course, even in HPV-positive cancers, not every patient is cured,” cautioned Mowery, “so we want to see if we can identify, early on, who is going to do well and who, in contrast, still needs that full 7-week intensive course of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.”

Another clinical trial ongoing at Duke in which Mowery is involved is testing a drug called BMX-001 given to patients through a subcutaneous injection during radiation. “We hope the drug will reduce the—the inflammation and irritation of the lining of the mouth and throat during radiation—and dry mouth,” she said.

Mowery is also busy in lab with intensive work in developing new mouse models of both HPV-related and HPV-unrelated squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. “My objective is to develop a platform in which I can develop radiation with immunotherapy, as well as with chemotherapy and various novel systemic agents, to try to improve outcomes particularly for HPV-negative disease,” noted Mowery, also the winner of a 2017 Conquer Cancer Young Investigator Award. “I want to discover if there are ways that we can make our bodies and our immune system realize that these cells are not ‘self’ and activate the immune system to attack and eliminate them.”

Tobacco-related cancer is induced in mice by giving them a carcinogen present in tobacco, “… causing them to become like a tobacco chewer or smoker,” Mowery explained. “Having that exposure causes mutations in cells in the lining of their mouth.”

Mowery further said her research is taking advantage of large sequencing projects in which various head and neck tumors have been sequenced. These data are publicly available and published primarily by The Cancer Genome Atlas organization. “I have been able to see which genes are most commonly mutated and then can genetically engineer mice to have those mutations. In other words, I can specifically knock out certain genes in the head and neck to model the cancer in mice.”

This is extremely important because it allows Mowery and team to interrogate the biology of the mutations, and determine which genetic changes and pathways lead to the cancer spreading from its site of origin to the lymph nodes or the lungs. “It helps us to develop therapies to block the cancer and keep it at bay, and to determine if there are better ways to sensitize the cancer to radiation and chemotherapy,” she detailed. “And we have an opportunity to test drugs that we hope will help with side effects of radiation. We must make sure that drugs protecting normal tissue are not also protecting the tumor. Having great animal models of human cancer is really important to making progress.”

As if her work in head and neck cancer were not enough, Mowery is continuing an earlier effort begun in the lab of her research mentor David G. Kirsch, MD, PhD, by acting as radiation oncology principal investigator for a multi-site, international prospective randomized clinical trial investigating the combination of the immune checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (anti-PD-1 antibody) and radiation therapy for patients with high-risk soft tissue sarcoma of the extremities. The researchers are also examining the biology behind the effects of radiation combined with pembrolizumab in a co-clinical trial using primary mouse models of sarcoma.

“We saw promising results combining them in this model. Our hope is by using this combination during the early stage of disease we may be able to eliminate those cells that have escaped the primary tumor before they cause a problem.”

Who Has Time for Hobbies?
Asked about her life outside of the clinic and lab, Mowery admitted that little time is left for hobbies. “I used to play tennis, but now I just enjoy watching it,” she said through a chuckle. “I splurged on a Labor Day vacation to the U.S. Open in New York. In my off time, I mostly read and spend time with my family. I am married; my wife is a nurse at Duke working in bone marrow transplant. We have no children.”

But the couple does have the patter of little feet in their midst. “We have two small dogs, Heidi and Cassie, a Maltese and a Maltese Shih Tzu mix—both less than 10 lbs.,” Mowery offered. “We live in downtown Durham, N.C., which is a burgeoning area. It’s kind of cool, and a little bit grungy—but in a good way. I love going for walks and checking out new restaurants. And I love food,” she added brightly.

After a brief pause, Mowery turned her thoughts again to patients. “There is one other clinical trial we’ve recently opened in the head and neck space. We are looking at financial toxicity of patients,” she said. “We are very concerned about the bills patients incur for cancer care and how that affects their quality of life.

“Unfortunately, some people just can’t afford to fill their whole prescription. Some take their drugs every other day because they are worried about cost. Some patients just do not follow through on therapy. We need to get a better sense of how much of that is going on and if there are early warning signs we can detect allowing us to intervene.”

Mowery added that better communications between health care providers and patients are needed to help patients better understand costs they face and identify resources that can help them.

“We just opened this survey-based pilot trial in June. We hope to have data next year and be able to develop a follow-up plan to employ the strategies that we find,” said Mowery. “There are a lot of ways we can try to help our patients.”

November, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

No De-escalation of Therapy for HPV+ Throat Cancer

Source: www.medscape.com
Author: Alexander M. Castellino, PhD

Another trial has shown that de-escalating therapy does not work in patients with good prognosis human papillomavirus-positive (HPV+) oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma or throat cancers.

Results from the De-ESCALaTE HPV study show that using the targeted drug cetuximab with radiotherapy does not improve side effects and, more importantly, has worse survival compared with the standard of care — chemotherapy with cisplatin and radiotherapy.

The finding echoes the results from the US National Cancer Institute’s Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) 1016 trial, the top-line results of which were released earlier this year, and details of which were presented this week at the American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) 2018 meeting.

“Do not change your clinical practice of using cisplatin with radiotherapy in these patients,” cautioned Hisham Mehanna, MBChB, PhD, chair of head and neck surgery at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, and lead investigator of the De-ESCALaTe study. He presented the results during a presidential session here at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2018 Congress (abstract LBA9).

“Cetuximab did not cause less toxicity and resulted in worse overall survival and more cancer recurrence than cisplatin. This was a surprise — we thought it would lead to the same survival rates but better toxicity. Patients with throat cancer who are HPV+ should be given cisplatin, and not cetuximab, where possible,” Mehanna said in a statement.

Hope for Fewer Side Effects
Cetuximab with radiation is already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in head and neck cancer, including oropharyngeal cancer, and is an accepted standard of care, especially for patients who cannot tolerate cisplatin.

The hope behind de-escalation of therapy was that this regimen would offer similar efficacy but have fewer side effects than the standard regimen of cisplatin plus radiation.

“The side effects of treatment for patients with head and neck cancers are devastating. They experience loss of speech, loss of taste, and have trouble swallowing,” explained ESMO expert Jean-Pascal Machiels, MD, PhD, head of the department of medical oncology at the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc, Brussels, Belgium.

“With HPV increasing rapidly in the Western world, HPV+ head and neck cancers are typically seen in younger patients who respond well to treatment and live for three to four decades. These patients would like to live without the toxicities associated with treatment,” he added.

“Based on a large study in 2006, many patients have been receiving cetuximab with radiotherapy on the assumption that it was as effective as chemotherapy with radiotherapy and caused fewer side effects,” Mehanna commented. That study showed that for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, treatment with cetuximab and high-dose radiotherapy improved locoregional control and reduced mortality. At the same time, side effects were no worse (N Engl J Med. 2006;354:567-578).

 

OCF NOTE: The foundation’s donors were funders of the RTOG 1016 clinical trial over several years.

Head and neck cancer: Novel treatment approaches

Source: www.curetoday.com
Author: staff

Meryl Kaufman, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, BRS-S, and Itzhak Brook, M.D., M.Sc., board members of the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, share insight into the role of novel treatment approaches like immunotherapy, robotic surgery and de-escalation in the management of cancers of the head and neck.

Transcript:
Meryl Kaufman, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, BRS-S: Dr. Brook, traditionally the treatment for head and neck cancer has been surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or some combination of those three. But there are some new and emerging treatment approaches to head and neck cancer along with many other cancers. Can you tell us a little bit about immunology? What is immunotherapy in the care of the head and neck cancer patient?

Itzhak Brook, M.D., M.Sc.: Most days, we don’t get cancer because our immune system is like the police department of our body. They detect cancer early and eliminate it. Unfortunately, in the case of cancer, the cancer cells can fool the immune system, and they go undetected and cause the disease. The main advantage of immunotherapy is that we are using the body’s defenses, the immune system, to kill the cancer in a much better way than the chemotherapy. Chemotherapy destroys the cancer cells, but it also affects the body cells. Immunotherapy is more precise. It is directed only to the cancer cells, so the rest of the body stays unscathed. That’s the beauty of immunotherapy. So, immunotherapy is an evolving field in cancer. They have many, many new drugs in the pipeline, and many studies are being done. But right now, there are several drugs that are good and seem to help in a patient with cancer, cancer that has already spread or that surgery cannot reach. The body’s own immunity would reach it.

One of them is monoclonal antibodies that were developed specifically for the cancer cells, and the other one is checkpoint inhibitors, which overcome the attempt by the cancer cells to fool the immune system and protect the cancer cells from their own immunity. So, by blocking those checkpoints, the body’s own immunity comes in and destroys the cancer cells. Those drugs are very promising because first of all, they are more effective in getting only the cancer cells. They do cause fewer side effects, and we are hopeful that they would be the new armamentarium that we will have for head and neck cancer.

Meryl Kaufman, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, BRS-S: So, would you say that’s something you should ask your physician about to find out what clinical trials and what types of medications are offered for your specific type of cancer at the time of diagnosis?

Itzhak Brook, M.D., M.Sc.: Absolutely, and that is depending on your own illness, on the seriousness or stage of the illness. And your physician would be able to consult the right specialist to tailor the specific treatment for you, and that’s very important because now we have a new tool that can augment the chemotherapy. And many of those treatments are given in combination. Conventional treatment with chemotherapy plus immunotherapy seems to work very well in many patients.

Meryl Kaufman, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, BRS-S: Yes. The future is exciting in that regard. In the case of the HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers, there has also been a lot of interest and push toward robotic surgery in caring for that patient population. I know that that’s not for everybody, and it’s more suited for some of the smaller tumors because of the side effects that might go along with it. What is your understanding of the role of robotic surgery in the care of head and neck cancer patients?

Itzhak Brook, M.D., M.Sc.: Robotic therapy is an amazing new procedure. It’s being done using the robotic tools that are able to do the surgery in a much less invasive way without traumatizing many of the normal tissues of the body. They cause less damage. The recovery period is shorter, and patients benefit from it tremendously. In that procedure, there is a robotic machine that the surgeon operates, and it allows very, very precise ability to cut the cancer out, and it does cause less long-term damage to the tissues and less deformity, you may say. And that’s a wonderful tool. But unfortunately, as you said, it is limited to areas of the body that the robot can reach. And when the cancer is in places that are not reachable by the robotic approach, one needs to use the conventional approach. But even in that area, there is a development of using endoscopic surgery where one can use a laser and the endoscopic approach, or the laser can kill or burn out the cancers that are more deeply located in the throat, again saving major surgery and even saving removal of the larynx from patients.

Meryl Kaufman, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, BRS-S: That’s right. And also, there’s a push toward de-escalation of the radiation and the chemotherapy in some of these HPV-positive patients, as well, because the tumors are more responsive to the treatment. So, there are many studies going on looking at whether we can do less treatment for the different types of diseases. As you spoke earlier, I think finding the right specialists is important; not everybody is a specialist in all these new and advanced technologies. If you’re looking for robotic surgery, find that specialist that really does a lot of robotic surgery and is an expert in that field. The same is true for the immunotherapy and other treatment approaches as well. So, I think being your own advocate, again, to find these different alternative options and these new treatments in clinical trials becomes exceedingly important in the age of all these new discoveries.

Itzhak Brook, M.D., M.Sc.: Fortunately, the knowledge of experience in those procedures, the laser and the robotic surgery, is becoming more prevalent in the United States. And when I had my cancer, when I needed to make choices 10 years ago, there were only a handful of experts. But right now, almost every major medical center has an expert in those fields, so it’s more available for people.

Meryl Kaufman, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, BRS-S: Absolutely. So, even if you have to travel a distance to get to those major medical centers, it’s worth the effort and travel and time to be able to seek these other opinions and see what your other options are before pursuing your treatment.

Itzhak Brook, M.D., M.Sc.: Absolutely.

Meryl Kaufman, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, BRS-S: Yes, I agree.

September, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

Cancer biology graduate student travels ‘ROCKy’ road toward a cure for post-radiation dry mouth

Source: medicalxpress.com
Author: staff, University of Arizona

The United States is in the midst of a head-and-neck cancer epidemic. Although survival rates are relatively high—after treatment with chemotherapy and radiation—survivors can suffer permanent loss of salivary function, potentially leading to decades of health problems and difficulties eating.

It is unknown why the salivary gland sometimes cannot heal after radiation damage, but Wen Yu “Amy” Wong, BS, a University of Arizona cancer biology graduate student, may have taken a step toward solving that riddle.

Radiation often comes with long-term or even permanent side effects. With a head-and-neck tumor in radiation’s crosshairs, the salivary gland might suffer collateral damage.

“When you get radiation therapy, you end up targeting your salivary glands as well,” Wong said. Losing the ability to salivate predisposes patients to oral complications and an overall decrease in their quality of life. “Salivary glands help you digest food, lubricate your mouth and fight against bacteria. After radiation, patients could choke on their food because they can’t swallow. They wake up in the middle of the night because their mouth is so dry. They often get cavities.”

Favorite foods may lose their flavor. “Saliva produces certain ions that help you taste,” she said. “Patients lose the ability to enjoy food. The best steak is very bland to them.”

The quest to restore salivary function in post-radiation head-and-neck cancer patients starts with learning why the salivary gland is unable to heal itself after radiation damage.

Wong’s study may have helped to unravel this mystery. Her team looked closely at two proteins, E-cadherin and β-catenin, which allow communication between cells. Normally, these proteins bind cells together, but after radiation damage, these connections are severed. “Think of them as telephone wires,” Wong said. “Radiation is like lightening hitting a telephone pole. That breaks the ability of one friend to talk to another on the other side of the city.”

Just as a maintenance crew can repair downed telephone poles after a storm, the body is able to heal itself after injury. Unfortunately, in post-radiation dry mouth, salivary glands’ ability to regenerate might be blocked.

In the lab, Wong was able to artificially force the regeneration of salivary glands, allowing her to learn where there are obstructions in the regeneration process. Wong particularly was interested in something called the ROCK pathway, which might go awry in the wake of radiation, blocking E-cadherin and β-catenin from reuniting.

“If I use an inhibitor to prevent this ROCK signaling pathway, these two proteins come back together,” Wong said.

The next step is to learn more about how a defective ROCK pathway blocks salivary glands’ natural ability to regenerate following radiation damage. Unlocking this secret could uncover novel ways to treat or cure post-radiation dry mouth.

Earlier this month, Wong and her co-authors were recognized by the American Physiological Society for their investigation, which was published in June by the American Journal of Physiology—Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. Wong, along with Maricela Pier, BS, a research specialist with the UA College of Medicine—Tucson Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and Kirsten Limesand, Ph.D., of the UA Cancer Center and professor of nutritional sciences with the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was selected for the APSselect award, given to the best articles in physiological research.

Wong selected Dr. Limesand’s lab as her “home base” throughout her graduate studies because “I wanted to connect with a woman in science who understands the difficulties. She was very easy to talk to, and the people in the lab provide a very nurturing environment. She is a great mentor.”

Dr. Limesand takes her role as a mentor seriously, and finds it deeply satisfying.

“Hands down, the most rewarding aspect of my career is training students,” Dr. Limesand said. “They’re our next generation of scientists, tackling the big questions that need to be solved.”

Dr. Limesand is a professor with the UA Cancer Biology Graduate Interdisciplinary Program, which emphasizes translational research to address significant problems relating to cancer development and treatment. Students are prepared for careers in cancer research through an interdisciplinary approach involving faculty members from a wide range of disciplines.

“I have students from cancer biology and physiological sciences, and I’ve been on committees of genetics students and immunobiology students,” said Dr. Limesand. “These diverse perspectives add to the research we’re doing.”

August, 2018|Oral Cancer News|