Purpose: In locoregionally advanced, resectable cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (CSCC-HN), surgery followed by radiotherapy is standard but can be cosmetically and functionally devastating, and many patients will have recurrence.
Patients and methods: Newly diagnosed or recurrent stage III-IVA CSCC-HN patients amenable to curative-intent surgery received two cycles of neoadjuvant PD-1 inhibition. The primary endpoint was ORR per RECIST 1.1. Secondary endpoints included pathologic response [pathologic complete response (pCR) or major pathologic response (MPR; ≤10% viable tumor)], safety, DSS, DFS, and OS. Exploratory endpoints included immune biomarkers of response.
Results: Of 20 patients enrolled, 7 had recurrent disease. While only 6 patients [30%; 95% confidence interval (CI), 11.9-54.3] had partial responses by RECIST, 14 patients (70%; 95% CI, 45.7-88.1) had a pCR (n = 11) or MPR (n = 3). No SAEs ocurred during or after the neoadjuvant treatment. At a median follow-up of 22.6 months (95% CI, 21.7-26.1), one patient progressed and died, one died without disease, and two developed recurrence. The 12-month DSS, DFS, and OS rates were 95% (95% CI, 85.9-100), 89.5% (95% CI, 76.7-100), and 95% (95% CI, 85.9-100), respectively. Gene expression studies revealed an inflamed tumor microenvironment in patients with pCR or MPR, and CyTOF analyses demonstrated a memory CD8+ T-cell cluster enriched in patients with pCR.
Conclusions: Neoadjuvant immunotherapy in locoregionally advanced, resectable CSCC-HN is safe and induces a high pathologic response rate. Pathologic responses were associated with an inflamed tumor microenvironment.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03565783.
©2021 American Association for Cancer Research.