Oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCSCC) is a prevalent surgically treated subset of head and neck cancer with frequent recurrence and poor survival. Immunotherapy has demonstrated efficacy in recurrent/metastatic head and neck cancer. However, whether antitumor responses could be fostered by neoadjuvant presurgical immunotherapy remains unclear. Using a Simon's two-stage design, we present results of a single-arm phase-II trial where 12 patients with stage II-IVA OCSCC received 3 to 4 biweekly doses of 3 mg/kg nivolumab followed by definitive surgical resection with curative intent. Presurgical nivolumab therapy in this cohort shows an overall response rate of 33% (n = 4 patients; 95% CI: 12%-53%). With a median follow up of 2.23 years, 10 out of 12 treated patients remain alive. Neoadjuvant nivolumab is safe, well-tolerated, and is not associated with delays in definitive surgical treatment in this study. This work demonstrates feasibility and safety for incorporation of nivolumab in the neoadjuvant setting for OCSCC (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT03021993).
Keywords: PD-1 therapy; head and neck cancer; neoadjuvant; neoadjuvant immunotherapy; nivolumab; oral cavity cancer.
© 2021 The Author(s).