Eric J. Sherman, MD, on Immunotherapy Trends in Head and Neck Cancer

Eric J. Sherman, MD, highlights trends he observed with immunotherapy in the head and neck cancer space.

At the 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, CancerNetwork® sat down with Eric J. Sherman, MD, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, to discuss immunotherapy trends in head and neck cancer. In addition to research examining the efficacy of moving immunotherapy into the frontline setting, other ongoing studies are examining whether administering immunotherapy prior to surgery could lead to improved outcomes.


There is a trend of trying to move immunotherapy more into the curative or frontline setting [in head and neck cancer]. This was something that was looked at in several other cancers. But there were some early studies—these were not randomized studies—[that were] presented at ASCO in the head and neck [space] where they are giving immunotherapy, or PD-1 drugs, prior to surgery. [These studies] looked at activity [including complete response rate and overall response]. One [from the Mass General Hospital group] showed that 2 cycles [of therapy] were better than 1 cycle. There was another that suggested that those who responded to immunotherapy up-front prior to surgery and then got adjuvant immunotherapy seemed to do a lot better than those who did not respond to PD-1 inhibitors. I do not think [the results] are practice [changing] right now, but you do you see that trend going on. There are already ongoing studies looking at the question of giving immunotherapy prior to surgery and seeing [if] that actually leads to better outcomes in a randomized fashion.