CHICAGO – The investigational programmed cell death protein 1 checkpoint inhibitor cemiplimab proved highly effective for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma in a phase 1 clinical trial, Michael R. Migden, MD, reported at the annual meeting of the American College of Mohs Surgery.
And this was no ordinary phase 1 study, he noted. Because there is no Food and Drug Administration–approved treatment for advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC), cemiplimab has been granted both Breakthrough Drug and Orphan Drug status by the FDA and the European Medicines Agency.
Given the likelihood that cemiplimab will receive expeditious regulatory approval to address this major unmet need, he offered his colleagues practical tips on its use, including information about the drug’s chief side effects as well as a heads-up regarding the importance of early recognition of the pseudoprogression phenomenon that can occur with the drug.
He predicted this fully human monoclonal antibody directed at programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) is going to be an important drug for Mohs surgeons.
“Immunotherapy is becoming increasingly relevant to micrographic surgery and dermatologic oncology practice and fellowship training. Care for larger, advanced CSCC falls within our scope of practice and we should play an essential role, inclusive of multidisciplinary care, in the management and follow-up of these patients,” asserted Dr. Migden, a dermatologic surgeon at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.
The open-label, phase 1 study included seven patients with distant metastatic CSCC and nine with locally and/or regionally advanced disease. They were treated with 3 mg/kg IV cemiplimab every 2 weeks for 48 weeks, with1.1 criteria used for assessment of response status every 8 weeks. More than 80% of the tumors were located in the head and neck. The great majority of study participants had previously been treated with radiation therapy and systemic agents, to little effect.