[Immuno oncology treatment in head and neck cancer]

Laryngorhinootologie. 2021 Apr;100(4):303-321. doi: 10.1055/a-1337-0882. Epub 2021 Mar 30.
[Article in German]


In the near future, immunotherapy with checkpoint inhibitors will not only reach the relevant ENT clinics, but also the oncologically integrated ENT practice, since more and more patients under long-term therapy (currently up to 2 years) also have to be seen during clinical follow-up in the specialist practice. In this respect, we also consider as necessary that the basics of immuno-oncology in head and neck tumors are already taught as part of the ENT specialist training. In this review article, the background and the definitions of the therapy sections (first, second line treatment, marker, etc.) should be discussed in detail and the basic tools for understanding this new therapy option should be provided. Since 2017, we have been experiencing a high level of approval dynamics for checkpoint inhibitors in Germany, which is to be assessed as an expression of a new effective principle of action and, after surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, is establishing a fourth strong pillar in the multimodal spectrum against head and neck tumors. Right from the start, the checkpoint inhibitors in the first phase 1b, 2 and 2b studies achieved overall response rates of 16-22 % with overall survival rates of 6-8 months in seriously ill patients with HNSCC who already had a first- and/or even second-line therapy. Nivolumab and Pembrolizumab are currently approved in Germany for the first and second line therapy of relapsed/metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck region (HNSCC), Cemiplimab for recurrent/metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and Avelumab for metastatic recurrent Merkel-cell carcinoma. The synopsis article about immune checkpoint inhibitors is intended to convey the basic understanding of the principle of action, the indication, toxicity management and the further development within trials in head and neck oncology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell*
  • Germany
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Skin Neoplasms*