Emerging therapies for head and neck cancer: review of the Phase II and III trials

Author(s): Nicole G Chau, Bonnie S Glisson

The purpose of this article is to summarize recent clinical trials with therapeutic intent of new systemic agents for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), including molecularly targeted agents and novel cytotoxins. Recent therapeutic gains have been obtained by combining cetuximab, a monoclonal antibody targeting the EGF receptor (EGFR) with cytotoxins for incurable recurrent HNSCC and in curative-intent treatment with radiation for locoregionally advanced HNSCC. Building on this experience, further development of cetuximab in combination with other targeted therapies and in other settings with cytotoxins and radiation are highlighted. Beyond EGFR‑targeted therapy, ongoing and or completed trials to investigate molecularly-targeted agents, including inhibitors of angiogenesis, the IGF-1 receptor and mammalian target of rapamycin are discussed alone, and combined with EGFR inhibitors, cytotoxins and/or radiation. The experience with recently studied cytotoxic agents is reviewed and their potential addition to the therapeutic armamentarium is discussed.