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Medical Oncology

, 35:37 | Cite as

Chemotherapy and immunotherapy for recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancer: a systematic review

  • Alessandro GuidiEmail author
  • Carla Codecà
  • Daris Ferrari
Review Article

Abstract

Head and neck cancer (HNC) is a fatal malignancy with an overall long-term survival of about 50% for all stages. The diagnosis is not rarely delayed, and the majority of patients present with loco-regionally advanced disease. The rate of second primary tumors after a diagnosis of HNC is about 3–7% per year, the highest rate among solid tumors. Currently, a single-modality or a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy (CHT), is the standard treatment for stage III–IV HNC. For the recurrent/metastatic setting, in the last 40 years great efforts have been made in order to develop a more effective CHT regimen, from the use of methotrexate alone, to the combination of cisplatin (CDDP) and 5-fluorouracile (5FU) or paclitaxel. Recently, the introduction of cetuximab, an anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody, to the CDDP–5FU doublet (EXTREME regimen) has improved the overall response rate, the progression-free survival and the overall survival (OS) compared to CHT alone. Nowadays, the EXTREME regimen is the standard of care for the first-line treatment of recurrent/metastatic head and neck carcinoma (RMHNC). In the last years, new promising therapies for RMHNC such as immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), which have demonstrated favorable results in second-line clinical trials, gained special interest. Nivolumab and pembrolizumab are the first two ICIs able to prolong OS in the second-, later-line and platinum-refractory setting, with tolerable toxicities. This review summarizes the current state of the art in RMHNC treatment options.

Keywords

Immunotherapy Chemotherapy Monoclonal antibodies Recurrent/metastatic head and neck cancer 

Notes

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical OncologySan Paolo HospitalMilanItaly

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