Background: Second-line treatment options for advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) are limited. The phase Ib KEYNOTE-012 study evaluated the safety and the efficacy of pembrolizumab for the treatment of HNSCC after long-term follow-up.
Methods: Multi-centre, non-randomised trial included two HNSCC cohorts (initial and expansion) in which 192 patients were eligible. Patients received pembrolizumab 10 mg/kg every 2 weeks (initial cohort; N = 60) or 200 mg every 3 weeks (expansion cohort; N = 132). Co-primary endpoints were safety and overall response rate (ORR; RECIST v1.1; central imaging vendor review).
Results: Median follow-up was 9 months (range, 0.2-32). Treatment-related adverse events (AEs) of any grade and grade 3/4 occurred in 123 (64%) and 24 (13%) patients, respectively. No deaths were attributed to treatment-related AEs. ORR was 18% (34/192; 95% CI, 13-24%). Median response duration was not reached (range, 2+ to 30+ months); 85% of responses lasted ≥6 months. Overall survival at 12 months was 38%.
Conclusions: Some patients received 2 years of treatment and the responses were ongoing for more than 30 months; the durable anti-tumour activity and tolerable safety profile, observed with long-term follow-up, support the use of pembrolizumab as a treatment for recurrent/metastatic HNSCC.