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Innovation Observatory > Reports > Drugs > Nivolumab in combination with chemoradiotherapy for squamous cell head and neck cancer

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Nivolumab in combination with chemoradiotherapy for squamous cell head and neck cancer


Cancer and Palliative Care

September 2021

Nivolumab in combination with cisplatin-based chemoradiotherapy (cisplatin-RT) is currently in development for the adjuvant treatment of high-risk patients with metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) following surgery to remove the cancer. HNSCC is a cancer of the mouth, nose or throat that develops in the squamous cells found in the outer layer of skin and the mucous membranes that line body cavities such as the airways and intestines. Patients with high-risk disease have an increased chance of the cancer returning following surgical resection. There is a need to develop additional treatment options to prevent recurrence of the cancer in these patients.
Nivolumab, is a human monoclonal antibody which belongs to a class of drugs known as immune checkpoint inhibitors. When given by intravenous administration, nivolumab blocks the activity of a protein called PD-1 which improves the activity of T-cells (a type of white blood cell) thereby increasing the ability of the immune system to kill cancer cells. If licenced, nivolumab in combination with cisplatin-RT would offer an additional treatment option for locally advanced HNSCC patients with a high-risk of recurrence.

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