Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) has a favorable prognosis which has led to efforts to de-intensify treatment. Response-adaptive de-escalated treatment is promising, however improved biomarkers are needed. Quantitative cell-free HPV-DNA (cfHPV-DNA) in plasma represents an attractive non-invasive biomarker for grading treatment response and post-treatment surveillance. This prospective study evaluates dynamic changes in cfHPV-DNA during induction therapy, definitive (chemo)radiotherapy, and post-treatment surveillance in the context of risk and response-adaptive treatment for HPV + OPC.
Methods: Patients with locoregional HPV + OPC are stratified into two cohorts: High risk (HR) (T4, N3, [Formula: see text] 20 pack-year smoking history (PYH), or non-HPV16 subtype); Low risk (LR) (all other patients). All patients receive induction chemotherapy with three cycles of carboplatin and paclitaxel. LR with ≥ 50% response receive treatment on the single-modality arm (minimally-invasive surgery or radiation alone to 50 Gy). HR with ≥ 50% response or LR with ≥ 30% and < 50% response receive treatment on the intermediate de-escalation arm (chemoradiation to 50 Gy with cisplatin). All other patients receive treatment on the regular dose arm with chemoradiation to 70 Gy with concurrent cisplatin. Plasma cfHPV-DNA is assessed during induction, (chemo)radiation, and post-treatment surveillance. The primary endpoint is correlation of quantitative cfHPV-DNA with radiographic response.
Discussion: A de-escalation treatment paradigm that reduces toxicity without compromising survival outcomes is urgently needed for HPV + OPC. Response to induction chemotherapy is predictive and prognostic and can select candidates for de-escalated definitive therapy. Assessment of quantitative cfHPV-DNA in the context of response-adaptive treatment of represents a promising reliable and convenient biomarker-driven strategy to guide personalized treatment in HPV + OPC.
Trial registration: This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov on October 1st, 2020 with Identifier: NCT04572100 .
Keywords: Chemotherapy; Head and neck cancer; Human papillomavirus; Radiotherapy; Treatment de-escalation.
© 2021. The Author(s).