Durvalumab is a medicinal product currently in development for the treatment of recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). SCCHN is a cancer that arises from cells called squamous cells. Squamous cells are found in the outer layer of skin and in the mucous membranes, the moist tissues that line body cavities such as the airways and intestines. SCCHN develops in the mouth, nose and throat. Recurrent or metastatic SCCHN typically exhibits poor patient outcomes, for which more effective therapies are required.
Durvalumab is given by infusion into the vein. Durvalumab works by blocking an immune protein called programmed cell death ligand-1 (PD-L1). Normally, the immune system recognises and kills cancer cells. However, cancer cells can develop PD-L1 on their surface, allowing the cancer cells to avoid recognition by the immune system. By blocking PD-L1, durvalumab allows the immune system to recognise and target the cancer cells in SCCHN. Using durvalumab may improve outcomes in patients with recurrent or metastatic SCCHN who currently have few effective therapies available.
Durvalumab is in development for patients with advanced/metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who are EGFR/ALK wild-type and whose tumours have a high PD-L1 expression. NSCLC makes up the majority of lung cancers in the UK. Advanced/metastatic (Stage IV) NSCLC is when the cancer has spread beyond the lung which was initially affected, most often to the liver, the adrenal glands, the bones and the brain. Most patients with NSCLC are diagnosed at the advanced/metastatic stage where curative treatment with surgery is unsuitable. Currently, chemotherapy remains the first line treatment option but this is often not well tolerated by many patients.