Pembrolizumab Effective for Patients with Advanced Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

May 23, 2016

Ranee Mehra, MD, chief of Head & Neck Hematology/OncologyRanee Mehra, MD, chief of Head & Neck Hematology/OncologyPHILADELPHIA (May 23, 2016) —Pembrolizumab, an anti-programmed death cell protein 1 antibody, is successful in treating advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, according to researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center – Temple Health. This provides a new treatment option with fewer side effects. The findings of the clinical trial will be presented at The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2016 Annual Meeting.

“This is an important development for patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, as we work toward finding more effective and tolerable treatment options for them,” said lead study author Ranee Mehra, MD, chief of Head & Neck Hematology/Oncology at Fox Chase.

Mehra and her colleagues enrolled 192 patients with recurrent and/or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and administered the drug for up to 24 months in those who were responding. Response was assessed every eight weeks.

Robust antitumor activity, coupled with durable responses up to two years and promising survival during long-term follow up led researchers to the conclusion that the drug is an active treatment for recurrent and/or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. They also found that the drug was well tolerated in the patients.


The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.
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