Conference Coverage

ESMO 2018: First look at immunotherapy as first-line treatment for HNSCC


Results of the phase 3 KEYNOTE-048 trial investigating pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for first-line treatment of recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) will be presented during a presidential symposium at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress.

The drug is currently approved for second-line treatment of HNSCC. Merck, the maker of the anti–programmed cell death protein therapy, announced in July that the primary endpoint of overall survival as monotherapy in the first-line setting of advanced HNSCC had been met in patients whose tumors expressed programmed death–ligand 1.

More than 800 patients in KEYNOTE-048 were randomized to receive pembrolizumab as monotherapy or in combination with cisplatin or carboplatin and 5-FU, or cetuximab plus cisplatin or carboplatin and 5-FU.

The dual primary endpoints were overall survival and progression-free survival. The secondary endpoints of the study were PFS (at 6 months and 12 months), objective response rate, and time to deterioration in Quality of Life Global Health Status/Quality of Life Scales of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire, according to the company.

Further details from the interim analysis of KEYNOTE-048 will be presented by Barbara Burtness, MD, of Yale Cancer Center, New Haven, Conn., during Presidential Symposium 3 at ESMO 2018 on Oct. 22 in Munich.

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