Clinical trial suggests new direction for heavy-smoking head and neck cancer patients
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IMAGE: David Raben, MD, and colleagues report promising phase 1 trial results of olaparib with cetuximab and radiation against heavy-smoker head and neck cancer. view more 

Credit: University of Colorado Cancer Center

Patients with a greater than 10 pack/year history of smoking tend to develop an especially dangerous form of head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC) for which prognosis remains poor and treatments have changed little during the past two decades. However, recent phase 1 clinical trial results by the Head and Neck Cancer Group at University of Colorado Cancer Center suggest a possible new direction for these patients. The first-in-human trial of the oral PARP inhibitor olaparib, with the anti-EGFR drug cetuximab and radiation, led to 72 percent 2-year survival in 16 patients on trial, compared with an expected 2-year survival rate of about 55 percent for standard-of-care treatment.

“Colorado promotes innovation, and this trial was certainly innovative when it was designed by our group,” says David Raben, MD, CU Cancer Center investigator and professor in the CU School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology. “Much credit goes to Antonio Jimeno, MD, PhD who was very supportive of this idea and helped move this forward along with

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