Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a disease area characterised by high levels of unmet need where there is ample opportunity for research and development (R&D) to improve the current treatment algorithm. Currently, chemotherapy remains the most preferred treatment across all lines, followed by the use of cetuximab and immunotherapies such as Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab) in rear lines, according to GlobalData.
From a clinical standpoint, the current median overall survival is eight months in the recurrent or metastatic settings, highlighting the greatest unmet need for more efficacious treatments which improve overall survival for HNSCC patients.
Aarohi Rede, Oncology Analyst at GlobalData, comments, “Approaches that improve survival outcomes by adopting curative intent treatment practices in an earlier setting, thus reducing the risk of recurrence, and making use of targeted therapies in locally advanced settings, will likely result in prolonged overall survival. Therapies targeting important signalling pathways in HNSCC such as HRAS, PD-1/PD-L1, PI3K, VEGF and ICOS are being tested to identify new druggable targets, which is another key unmet need, as current therapies lack targeted approaches. Of the late-stage pipeline agents currently in development, tipifarnib, being developed by Kura Oncology, holds promise in that respect.”
Treatment-related toxicity has remained a key issue in HNSCC owing to the drug toxicity and safety profiles with regards to taxanes, alkylating agents, and cetuximab use in HNSCC. Ongoing research explores probable reduction of treatment dosing or de-intensified treatments, especially in patients with oropharyngeal carcinoma (OPSCC) expressing HPV positivity, to maintain clinical outcomes while improving the quality of life (QOL) overall and preserving better prognosis for OPSCC.
Rede adds, “Based on GlobalData’s key opinion leaders (KOL) interviews, secondary research, and pipeline analyses, this indication has significant scope for pharmaceutical innovation to expand on clinical benefits provided by currently marketed agents.”