Most patients diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) will present with locally advanced disease, requiring multimodality therapy. Despite this curative approach, a significant subset of these patients will develop locoregional failure and/or distant metastases. Despite significant progress in the treatment and subsequent prognosis of locally advanced HNSCC, the prognosis of those patients with recurrent and/or metastatic (R/M) HNSCC is poor, with short-lived responses to palliative chemotherapy and few therapeutic agents available. The discovery of the integral role of epidermal growth factor receptor overexpression in the pathogenesis of HNSCC, coupled with emerging data on the role of tumor evasion of the immune system, has opened new pathways in the development of novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of R/M HNSCC. As a result, cetuximab, a monoclonal antibody targeting epidermal growth factor receptor, as well as pembrolizumab and nivolumab, monoclonal antibodies targeting programmed cell death 1 (PD-1), are now US Food and Drug Administration approved for the treatment of R/M HNSCC. This review will detail the data supporting the use of these agents, as well as clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of other novel and promising drugs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)