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Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month: 2020 Immunotherapy Research Update

April 14, 2020

While most commonly associated with cervical cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is also associated with head and neck cancer—and incidence rates are rising among certain groups.

This April for Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month, we look at HPV’s connection to cancer, treatment options, side effects, and how we’re working toward a future immune to head and neck cancer. 

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Options

“Patients have so many more options now than they did even a decade ago,” observed Dr. Ranee Mehra, the director of Head and Neck Medical Oncology at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center. At the 2019 CRI Immunotherapy Patient Summit in Baltimore, she explained her discussions with patients about a full range of options including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, combination therapies, and clinical trials.

Head and Neck Cancer Patient Story

After chemotherapy failed, Rikki enrolled in a clinical trial of pembrolizumab (Keytruda®). Just over two months into the trial, a scan revealed that his tumor had shrunk over 90 percent. Today Rikki is cancer-free, enjoys playing with his band, Poison, caring for his two children, and practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu. 

Scientist Spotlight

Dr. Rajan KulkarniCheckpoint immunotherapies are now part of standard of care in head and neck cancer, but up to 40 percent of patients will experience side effects such as a skin rash. CRI CLIP Investigator Rajan Kulkarni, M.D., Ph.D., aims to identify the molecular basis of immune responses against tumors and ultimately, develop strategies to mitigate harmful side effects for more effective treatment.

Learn more about Dr. Kulkarni's Research 

Head and Neck Cancer Study

The CRI Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator is funding a study that seeks to bolster the anti-PD-L1 and anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapy combination through the use of an adjuvant designed to activate innate immune responses in various advanced accessible solid tumors.

LEARN MORE about the study

Immunotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer
Information Updated

Immunotherapy for head and neck cancer provides exciting new treatment options for patients, including those with HPV-related cancers, and without the potentially devastating side effects of conventional treatments. There are currently three FDA-approved immunotherapy options for head and neck cancer.

VIEW Immunotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer UPDATE

Find a Head and Neck Cancer Clinical Trial

A variety of new and promising cancer immunotherapy treatments are only available to patients in clinical trials. Our Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder will match you to trials for which you may be eligible, and you can help speed the development of potentially lifesaving drugs for yourself and others.

FIND A cancer clinical TRIAL

Support Head and Neck Cancer Research

Certain viruses, including human papilloma virus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), are risk factors for head and neck cancer. Since 1994, CRI has given out more than $4 million for HPV research. This has led to a number of clinical trials testing HPV vaccines, including Gardasil®, which was approved by the FDA in 2006. This Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month, support lifesaving cancer immunotherapy research.

Donate to head and neck cancer research

Be in the know with the latest immunotherapy news

*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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