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Oral Oncol. 2009 Sep;45(9):747-51. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2009.02.009. Epub 2009 May 12.

Immunotherapy for head and neck cancer.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh, Hillman Cancer Center Research Pavilion, PA 15213, United States.


Overall survival for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) has not improved appreciably over the past few decades. Novel therapeutic approaches, such as immunotherapy, are under clinical investigation since the standard treatments are toxic and have not successfully controlled this disease with sufficiently high success rates. Cancer immunotherapy describes various techniques to expand and activate the immune system to control tumor growth in vivo, and clinical evaluation has so far demonstrated low toxicity. Immunotherapy appears to have the most applicability in settings of minimal residual disease and to reduce distant metastases after other therapeutic interventions, and its potential clinical value is now receiving intensive evaluation. Emerging forms of SCCHN immunotherapy involve both the use of monoclonal antibodies (mAb) that target growth factor receptors where immune activation appears to contribute to tumor cell lysis, as well as various forms of active vaccination strategies which activate and direct the patient's cellular immunity against the tumor. This article reviews immunotherapeutic strategies currently in clinical trials or under development for patients with SCCHN.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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