Nivolumab in combination with ipilimumab is in clinical development for patients with advanced, recurrent or metastatic oesophageal squamous cell cancer that has not been treated previously. Advanced oesophageal cancer begins in the food pipe and spreads to other parts of the body. Squamous cell cancers develop from the cells that make up the inner lining of the oesophagus. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, persistent acid indigestion or heartburn, weight loss, pain in the throat, and chronic cough. Lifestyle factors are attributed to most oesophageal cancers, including smoking and being overweight.
Nivolumab and ipilimumab are immune therapy medicinal products that are currently licensed as a combination treatment of advanced cancers such as melanoma and kidney cancer. Nivolumab works by improving the activity of white blood cells (T-cells) thereby increasing the ability of the immune system to kill cancer cells. Ipilimumab works in a different way but also to increase the activity of T-cells. It is thought that when used together, both drugs may be more effective than each on its own. Both drugs given by injection and the combination may offer a treatment option for patients with advanced, recurrent or metastatic oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma who have not been treated previously.
Pembrolizumab in addition to platinum therapy and radiation is in clinical development for the treatment of unresectable locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Cancers that are collectively known as head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat). The main risk factors for squamous cell carcinomas are smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. Symptoms may include sore throat, difficulty swallowing and pain in the ears and others. Treatment options for cancer that has spread usually involve chemotherapy such as (platinum-based therapy) and/or radiotherapy and focus on relieving symptoms and prolonging life rather than curing the cancer.