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Innovation Observatory > Reports > Drugs > Pembrolizumab in addition to platinum therapy and radiation for unresectable locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

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Pembrolizumab in addition to platinum therapy and radiation for unresectable locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Drugs

Cancer and Palliative Care

June 2019


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.
Pembrolizumab, given by intravenous infusion, is a monoclonal antibody that acts by binding to and blocking a protein called programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) that is found on the cancer cells or immune cells trying to attack cancer cells. Binding to this protein can lead to the activation of the body’s immune system to fight tumour cells. If licensed pembrolizumab in addition to platinum therapy and radiation will be a treatment option for patients with unresectable locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

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