Phase II study of sunitinib malate in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Nicholas W. Choong, Mark Kozloff, David Taber, H. Shawn Hu, James Wade, Percy Ivy, Theodore G. Karrison, Allison Dekker, Everett E. Vokes, Ezra E W Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Summary: Background Sunitinib is an orally administered multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor of RET, VEGFR, PDGFR, and c-KIT. We conducted a phase II trial to evaluate the tolerability and efficacy of sunitinib in metastatic and/or recurrent SCCHN patients. Methods Patients who had received no more than two prior chemotherapy regimens were eligible and, depending on ECOG performance status (PS), were entered into either Cohort A (PS 0-1) or Cohort B (PS 2). Sunitinib was administered in 6-week cycles at 50 mg daily for 4 weeks followed by 2 weeks off. Primary endpoint for Cohort A was objective tumor response. A Simon two-stage design required twelve patients to be enrolled in the first stage and if 1 or fewer responses were observed, further study of this cohort would be terminated due to lack of treatment efficacy. Primary endpoint of Cohort B was to determine the feasibility of sunitinib in patients with ECOG performance status 2. Results Twenty-two patients were accrued (Cohort A - 15 patients, Cohort B - 7 patients). Median age in cohort A and B was 56 and 61 years, respectively. Grade 3 hematologic toxicities encountered were lymphopenia (18%), neutropenia (14%) and thrombocytopenia (5%). There was only one incidence of grade 4 hematologic toxicity which was thrombocytopenia. Fatigue and anorexia were the most common non-hematologic toxicities. Grade 3 fatigue occurred in 23% of patients. The only grade 4 non-hematologic toxicity was one incidence of gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Non-fatal hemorrhagic complications occurred in 8 patients: epistaxis (3 patients), pulmonary hemorrhage (2 patients), gastrointestinal hemorrhage (2 patients) and tumor hemorrhage (1 patient). Four patients were not evaluable for tumor response (Cohort A - 3patients, Cohort B - 1 pt). One partial response was observed in the entire study. Dose reduction was required in 5 patients (Cohort A - 3 patients for grd 3 fatigue, grd 3 mucositis and recurrent grd 3 neutropenia; Cohort B - 2 patients for grd 3 fatigue and grd 3 nausea). Median time to progression for cohort A and B were 8.4 and 10.5 weeks, respectively. Median overall survival for cohort A and B was 21 and 19 weeks, respectively. Conclusions Sunitinib had low single agent activity in SCCHN necessitating early closure of cohort A at interim analysis. Sunitinib was well tolerated in PS 2 patients. Further evaluation of single agent sunitinib in head and neck is not supported by the results of this trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-683
Number of pages7
JournalInvestigational New Drugs
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Chemotherapy
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Sunitinib

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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