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Profile of pembrolizumab in the treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma: design development and place in therapy

Authors Haque S, Yellu M, Randhawa J, Hashemi-Sadraei N

Received 10 May 2017

Accepted for publication 1 August 2017

Published 31 August 2017 Volume 2017:11 Pages 2537—2549

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/DDDT.S119537

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Akshita Wason

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Georgios Panos

Sulsal Haque,1,2 Mahender Yellu,1,2 Jaskirat Randhawa,1,2 Nooshin Hashemi-Sadraei1,2

1Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, 2University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute, Cincinnati, OH, USA

Abstract: Head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC) is the sixth most common malignancy worldwide, and despite advances in cytotoxic, surgical and radiation techniques, outcomes are still poor in those with both locally advanced and metastatic diseases. The need for development of better therapeutics along with a greater understanding of the relationship between the immune system and malignancies has led to a new therapeutic modality, immune modulators, particularly checkpoint inhibitors in HNSCC. It is now well recognized that HNSCC circumvents crucial pathways utilized by the immune system to escape surveillance. These hijacked pathways include impairing tumor antigen presentation machinery and co-opting checkpoint receptors. This understanding has led to the development of monoclonal antibodies targeting checkpoint receptors and has resulted in promising outcomes in HNSCC. This article describes the mechanisms that HNSCC utilizes to escape immune surveillance, clinical impact of checkpoint inhibitors (with a focus on pembrolizumab), ongoing studies, and future directions.

Keywords: pembrolizumab, head and neck cancer, MK-3475, immunotherapy

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