Late Breaking Abstract – ASTRO 2019 Detectable HPV Circulating Tumor DNA in Post-Operative Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma Patients is Associated with Progression

SUMMARY: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the US, there are more than 16,000 cases of Human PapillomaVirus (HPV)-positive OroPharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OPSCC) per year and there has been a significant increase in incidence during the past several decades. They represent approximately 70% of all OPSCC in the United States and Canada. HPV is a non-enveloped, double-stranded, DNA virus that infects epithelial cells and majority of the HPV subtypes cause epithelial lesions such as warts or papillomas, which are of low malignant potential. However, there is a subset of high-risk HPV that can cause cancer by integrating its DNA into the host genome, with the resulting expression of two important oncogenes E6 and E7 in the host cell. The E6 oncogene binds and degrades tumor suppressor TP53 via ubiquitin-mediated processes thereby preventing the host cell from engaging in cell cycle checkpoints and enduring an apoptotic response. The E7 oncogene binds to and destabilizes tumor suppressor retinoblastoma (pRb) resulting in transcription of genes involved in proliferation and cell cycle progression. One of the main molecular pathways amplified through E7 is the CDKN2A/p16 gene pathway, which results in the overexpression of p16 protein. E7 also induces cellular proliferation by disrupting the activity of Cyclin Dependent Kinase inhibitors p21 and p27. In essence, HPV infection induces failures in cell cycle checkpoints, resulting in genetic instability and over time, progression of premalignant lesions to invasive Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Unlike tobacco induced HNSCC where TP53 and pRb pathways are nullified due to mutation and epigenetic alterations, in HPV-related HNSCC, wild-type TP53 and pRb are functionally inactivated by the viral oncogenes.

Patients with HPV-positive OPSCC tend to be younger males, who are former smokers or nonsmokers, with risk factors for exposure to High Risk HPV infection. The HPV-positive primary Squamous Cell Carcinoma tends to be smaller in size, with early nodal metastases, and HPV status particularly in OroPharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma is an independent prognostic factor for Overall Survival (OS) and Progression Free Survival (PFS). These patients have a better prognosis compared with patients with HPV-negative Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC), when treated similarly. Further, HPV positive patients demonstrate higher Response Rates to chemoradiation as well as an improved Overall Survival. However, approximately 20% of patients diagnosed with HPV-positive OPSCC experience cancer progression within 5 years.

The role of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) as a cancer biomarker in the post-operative surveillance of patients with HPV-associated OPSCC has remained unclear. The authors in this study aimed to investigate ctDNA detectability rates by post-op risk category and association with prognosis in this patient population. The researchers prospectively collected and tested serum samples from 29 patients with HPV-associated OPSCC who had not yet undergone treatment, for assay validation. As a control, 7 HPV negative OPSCC patients were included. A cohort of 46 patients with HPV-associated OPSCC who had undergone surgery for the disease had serum samples collected prior to beginning adjuvant therapy. The serum collected from this total group of 82 patients (N=29+7+46) was analyzed in a blinded fashion for E6/E7 HPV ctDNA using ddPCR multiplex assay (HPV 16, 18, 31, 33), and HPV ctDNA detectability was compared statistically across groups. Associations of patient and tumor characteristics with recurrence were assessed and estimates of Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Overall Survival (OS) were made using the Kaplan-Meier (KM) method.

The researchers found that ctDNA was detectable in 27 of 29 patients who had not yet undergone treatment, for a sensitivity rate of 93%, whereas none of the 7 HPV-negative patients had detectable ctDNA, for a specificity rate of 100%. Post-op serum was collected at a median of 25 days after surgery prior to beginning adjuvant therapy and ctDNA was detectable in 43% of patients including 47% with high-risk features (Extra Nodal Extension or R1-microscopic residual tumor). All detected ctDNA was HPV type 16.

At a median follow up of 20 months for the post-op HPV-OPSCC cohort, 24% of these patients had recurrent disease. Among those who recurred, 64% had detectable ctDNA compared with 35% whose disease did not recur (P=0.1). There was a significant association between detectable ctDNA and 24-month Progression Free Survival (45% versus 84%; P=0.04) and Overall Survival (80% versus 100%; P=0.02). Overall, detectable ctDNA, T4 tumors, and more than 4 positive lymph nodes were positively associated with disease recurrence.

It was concluded that detectable HPV circulating tumor DNA is a highly sensitive and specific means of determining HPV-status and was significantly associated with worsened Progression Free Survival and Overall Survival among post-op patients with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)-associated OroPharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma. HPV circulating tumor DNA as a cancer biomarker may also assist in risk stratification, treatment assessment, and surveillance. Detectable HPV ctDNA in Post-Operative Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma Patients is Associated with Progression. Routman DM, Chera BS, Jethwa KR, et al. International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics 2019;105, 682-683. LBA5

KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab)

The FDA on June 10, 2019 approved KEYTRUDA® for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic or unresectable recurrent Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC). KEYTRUDA® is a product of Merck.

Radiotherapy plus ERBITUX® Inferior to Radiotherapy plus Cisplatin in HPV-Positive Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

SUMMARY: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the US, there are more than 16,000 cases of Human PapillomaVirus (HPV)-positive OroPharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OPSCC) per year and there has been a significant increase in incidence during the past several decades, due to changes in sexual practices. They represent approximately 70% of all OPSCC in the United States and Canada. HPV-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma is an entirely distinct disease entity from HPV-negative oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Patients with HPV-positive OPSCC tend to be younger males, who are former smokers or nonsmokers, with risk factors for exposure to High Risk HPV (HR-HPV). The HPV-positive primary Squamous Cell Carcinoma tend to be smaller in size, with early nodal metastases, and these patients have a better prognosis compared with patients with HPV-negative Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC), when treated similarly. Expression of tumor suppressor protein, known as p16, is highly correlated with infection with HPV in HNSCC. Accurate HPV assessment in head and neck cancers is becoming important as it significantly impacts clinical management. HPV status is considered the most important prognostic indicator in patients with head and neck cancer and p16 status is now included in the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Staging System.
Parts-of-the-Oropharynx
HPV-positive Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma is more sensitive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy than is HPV-negative Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which translates to a much better prognosis and survival, when treated with a combination of Cisplatin chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This treatment however can be associated with substantial morbidity and lifelong toxicities such as dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, and loss of taste. Patients deemed unable to tolerate Cisplatin chemotherapy such as the elderly, and those with poor kidney function, receive ERBITUX® (Cetuximab), an Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) inhibitor with radiotherapy.

ERBITUX® is an EGFR targeted monoclonal antibody and the goal of this present study was to find an alternative to Cisplatin, and this study was designed to see if ERBITUX® with radiation would be less toxic than Cisplatin with radiation, without compromising survival among HPV-positive OPSCC patient population. RTOG 1016 is a randomized, multicentre, non-inferiority, phase III trial which included patients with Human PapillomaVirus (HPV)-positive Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This study enrolled 987 patients (N=987) at 182 centers in the US and Canada and enrollees had histologically confirmed HPV-positive Oropharyngeal carcinoma and clinical categories included T1-T2, N2a-N3 M0 or T3-T4, N0-N3 M0 groups. Patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive either radiotherapy plus ERBITUX®, or radiotherapy plus Cisplatin. Treatment groups were well balanced and were stratified by T (T1–T2 vs T3–T4), N category (N0-N2a vs N2b-N3), and smoking history (10 pack-years or less vs more than 10 pack-years). Patients were randomized to receive either ERBITUX® at a loading dose of 400 mg/m2 IV 5-7 days before radiotherapy initiation, followed by ERBITUX® 250 mg/m2 IV weekly for seven doses (N=425) or Cisplatin 100 mg/m 2 on days 1 and 22 of radiotherapy (N=424). All patients received accelerated Intensity-Modulated RadioTherapy (IMRT) delivered at 70 Gy in 35 fractions over 6 weeks at six fractions per week (with two fractions given on one day, at least 6 hours apart). The Primary endpoint was Overall Survival.

The third and final interim analysis was done after a median follow-up of 4.5 years. Radiotherapy plus ERBITUX® did not meet the non-inferiority criteria for Overall Survival and the estimated 5-year Overall Survival was 77.9% in the ERBITUX® group versus 84.6% in the Cisplatin group, suggesting that the Overall Survival on the ERBITUX® arm was significantly inferior to the Cisplatin arm. Progression Free Survival (PFS) was also significantly lower in the ERBITUX® group compared with the Cisplatin group, with a 5-year PFS of 67.3% versus 78.4%, respectively. Five year locoregional failure rates were significantly higher in the ERBITUX® group compared with the Cisplatin group (17.3% versus 9.9%, respectively. Serious (grade 3-5) adverse events were similar for patients in both treatment groups and as expected, toxicities were different, with adverse events of renal toxicity, hearing loss, and bone marrow suppression more common in patients in the Cisplatin group, where as body rash was more common in the ERBITUX® group. All patients in this study were able to complete therapy at the time of this analysis.

It was concluded that this trial is the first randomized clinical trial specifically designed for patients with HPV-positive Oropharyngeal cancer, and among this patient group, radiotherapy plus ERBITUX® showed inferior Overall Survival and Progression Free Survival compared with radiotherapy plus Cisplatin. Radiotherapy plus Cisplatin should therefore be the standard of care for eligible patients with HPV-positive Oropharyngeal carcinoma. Radiotherapy plus cetuximab or cisplatin in human papillomavirus-positive oropharyngeal cancer (NRG Oncology RTOG 1016): a randomised, multicentre, non-inferiority trial. Gillison ML, Trotti AM, Harris J, et al. Published:November 15, 2018. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32779-X

Late Breaking Abstract – ESMO 2018 Frontline KEYTRUDA® Improves Overall Survival in Advanced Head and Neck Cancer

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society estimates that 65,410 people will be diagnosed with Head and Neck cancer in 2019 and 14,620 patients will die of the disease. Patients with Recurrent/Metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck have a poor prognosis with a short median Overall Survival. The treatment paradigm for Head and Neck cancer has been rapidly evolving with the recognition and better understanding of immune evasion and the role of Immune checkpoints or gate keepers in suppressing antitumor immunity. Blocking the Immune checkpoints unleashes the T cells, resulting in T cell proliferation, activation and a therapeutic response. KEYTRUDA® (Pembrolizumab) is a fully humanized, Immunoglobulin G4, monoclonal antibody, that binds to the PD-1 receptor and blocks its interaction with ligands PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby undoing PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response and unleashing the tumor-specific effector T cells.

KEYNOTE-048 is an open-label, three arm, randomized, phase III trial, in which KEYTRUDA® monotherapy and KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy was compared to ERBITUX® (Cetuximab) plus chemotherapy, as first-line systemic therapy, among patients with Recurrent/Metastatic Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma. A total 882 patients were randomized in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive either KEYTRUDA® 200 mg IV every 3 weeks for 24 months (N=301), KEYTRUDA® 200 mg IV every 3 weeks for 24 months plus Cisplatin 100 mg/m2 IV or Carboplatin AUC 5 IV (investigator’s choice) on day 1, along with 5-FU 1,000 mg/m2/day IV, days 1-4 of each 3-week cycle, for a maximum of 6 cycles (N=281) or the control arm (EXTREME) consisting of ERBITUX® 400 mg/m2 loading dose followed by 250 mg/m2 weekly, plus Cisplatin 100 mg/m2 or Carboplatin AUC 5 IV on day 1 along with 5-FU 1000 mg/m2/day IV, days 1-4 of each 3-week cycle, for a maximum of 6 cycles (N=300).

Enrolled patients had Recurrent or Metatastic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Oral cavity, Oropharynx, Hypopharynx or Larynx, and had not received prior systemic therapy for their recurrent or metastatic disease. Patients were stratified by PD-L1 expression, HPV p16 status, and ECOG Performance Status. PD-L1 expression was measured using the Combined Positive Score (CPS) and Tumor Proportion Score and a CPS of 20 or more indicated high PD-L1 expression, whereas a CPS of 1 or more was the lower threshold of positivity. (CPS measures high PD-L1 expression in the tumor and surrounding immune cells, whereas TPS only captures PD-L1 expression on tumor cells). Approximately 21% of patients were positive for Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV) p16.

In this analysis, the authors compared the outcomes with KEYTRUDA® alone versus EXTREME (ERBITUX® plus chemo combination) in patients stratified for PD-L1 expression as well as KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy versus ERBITUX® plus chemotherapy in all patients with any PD-L1 status. The Primary endpoints were Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Overall Survival (OS) in patients with a PD-L1 CPS of 20 or more and CPS of 1 or more in all enrolled patients. The Secondary endpoints of the study were PFS at 6 months and 12 months, Objective Response Rate (ORR), and time to deterioration in Quality of Life. The minimum follow up was about 17 months.

It was noted that in patients with PD-L1 CPS of 20 or more (high expressors, N=255), single agent KEYTRUDA® was superior to ERBITUX® combination, with a median OS of 14.9 months in patients who received single agent KEYTRUDA® versus 10.7 months in patients who received ERBITUX® with combination chemotherapy (HR=0.61; P=0.0007). There was however no difference in PFS in this PD-L1 subset between the 2 treatment groups (HR=0.99; P=0.5). Similar benefit was seen for patients with a PD-L1 CPS of 1 or more subset (low expressors, N= 512), in which the median OS for KEYTRUDA® monotherapy versus ERBITUX® plus chemotherapy was 12.3 months versus 10.3 months respectively (HR=0.78; P=0.0086). The OS for KEYTRUDA® monotherapy was noninferior to ERBITUX® plus chemotherapy in the total population of patients (N=601). The ORRs were 23% and 36%, with single agent KEYTRUDA® and ERBITUX® combination respectively, in the high expressor subgroup and 19% and 35%, respectively in the low expressor subgroup. However, the median Duration of Response was almost 5 times longer with KEYTRUDA® monotherapy compared to ERBITUX® combination.

When KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy was compared with ERBITUX® plus chemotherapy, KEYTRUDA® combination was non-inferior and in fact was superior to ERBITUX® combination for OS in the total population (N = 559), with a median OS of 13.0 versus 10.7 months respectively (HR=0.77; P=0.0034).

It was concluded that among patients with Recurrent/Metastatic Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma, KEYTRUDA® monotherapy significantly improved Overall Survival compared to ERBITUX® plus chemotherapy in patients with PD-L1 Combined Positive Score of 1 or more. Additionally, KEYTRUDA® plus chemotherapy significantly improved Overall Survival in the total patient population, compared to ERBITUX® plus chemotherapy. Responses associated with single agent KEYTRUDA® and KEYTRUDA® chemotherapy combination, were durable. These data support KEYTRUDA®, as well as KEYTRUDA® plus platinum and 5-FU as the new first-line standards of care for this patient group. KEYNOTE-048: Phase 3 study of first-line pembrolizumab (P) for recurrent/metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (R/M HNSCC). Burtness B, Harrington KJ, Greil R, et al. Proceedings from the 2018 ESMO Congress: October 19-23, 2018; Munich, Germany. Abstract LBA8_PR.

Radiotherapy plus ERBITUX® Inferior to Radiotherapy plus Cisplatin in HPV-Positive Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

SUMMARY: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the US, there are more than 16,000 cases of Human PapillomaVirus (HPV)-positive OroPharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OPSCC) per year and there has been a significant increase in incidence during the past several decades, due to changes in sexual practices. They represent approximately 70% of all OPSCC in the United States and Canada. HPV-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma is an entirely distinct disease entity from HPV-negative oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Patients with HPV-positive OPSCC tend to be younger males, who are former smokers or nonsmokers, with risk factors for exposure to High Risk HPV (HR-HPV). The HPV-positive primary Squamous Cell Carcinoma tend to be smaller in size, with early nodal metastases, and these patients have a better prognosis compared with patients with HPV-negative Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC), when treated similarly. Expression of tumor suppressor protein, known as p16, is highly correlated with infection with HPV in HNSCC. Accurate HPV assessment in head and neck cancers is becoming important as it significantly impacts clinical management. HPV status is considered the most important prognostic indicator in patients with head and neck cancer and p16 status is now included in the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Staging System.Parts-of-the-Oropharynx

HPV-positive Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma is more sensitive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy than is HPV-negative Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which translates to a much better prognosis and survival, when treated with a combination of Cisplatin chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This treatment however can be associated with substantial morbidity and lifelong toxicities such as dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, and loss of taste. Patients deemed unable to tolerate Cisplatin chemotherapy such as the elderly, and those with poor kidney function, receive ERBITUX® (Cetuximab), an Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) inhibitor with radiotherapy.

ERBITUX® is an EGFR targeted monoclonal antibody and the goal of this present study was to find an alternative to Cisplatin, and this study was designed to see if ERBITUX® with radiation would be less toxic than Cisplatin with radiation, without compromising survival among HPV-positive OPSCC patient population. RTOG 1016 is a randomized, multicentre, non-inferiority, phase III trial which included patients with Human PapillomaVirus (HPV)-positive Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This study enrolled 987 patients (N=987) at 182 centers in the US and Canada and enrollees had histologically confirmed HPV-positive Oropharyngeal carcinoma and clinical categories included T1-T2, N2a-N3 M0 or T3-T4, N0-N3 M0 groups. Patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive either radiotherapy plus ERBITUX®, or radiotherapy plus Cisplatin. Treatment groups were well balanced and were stratified by T (T1–T2 vs T3–T4), N category (N0-N2a vs N2b-N3), and smoking history (10 pack-years or less vs more than 10 pack-years). Patients were randomized to receive either ERBITUX® at a loading dose of 400 mg/m2 IV 5-7 days before radiotherapy initiation, followed by ERBITUX® 250 mg/m2 IV weekly for seven doses (N=425) or Cisplatin 100 mg/m 2 on days 1 and 22 of radiotherapy (N=424). All patients received accelerated Intensity-Modulated RadioTherapy (IMRT) delivered at 70 Gy in 35 fractions over 6 weeks at six fractions per week (with two fractions given on one day, at least 6 hours apart). The Primary endpoint was Overall Survival.

The third and final interim analysis was done after a median follow-up of 4.5 years. Radiotherapy plus ERBITUX® did not meet the non-inferiority criteria for Overall Survival and the estimated 5-year Overall Survival was 77.9% in the ERBITUX® group versus 84.6% in the Cisplatin group, suggesting that the Overall Survival on the ERBITUX® arm was significantly inferior to the Cisplatin arm. Progression Free Survival (PFS) was also significantly lower in the ERBITUX® group compared with the Cisplatin group, with a 5-year PFS of 67.3% versus 78.4%, respectively. Five year locoregional failure rates were significantly higher in the ERBITUX® group compared with the Cisplatin group (17.3% versus 9.9%, respectively. Serious (grade 3-5) adverse events were similar for patients in both treatment groups and as expected, toxicities were different, with adverse events of renal toxicity, hearing loss, and bone marrow suppression more common in patients in the Cisplatin group, where as body rash was more common in the ERBITUX® group. All patients in this study were able to complete therapy at the time of this analysis.

It was concluded that this trial is the first randomized clinical trial specifically designed for patients with HPV-positive Oropharyngeal cancer, and among this patient group, radiotherapy plus ERBITUX® showed inferior Overall Survival and Progression Free Survival compared with radiotherapy plus Cisplatin. Radiotherapy plus Cisplatin should therefore be the standard of care for eligible patients with HPV-positive Oropharyngeal carcinoma. Radiotherapy plus cetuximab or cisplatin in human papillomavirus-positive oropharyngeal cancer (NRG Oncology RTOG 1016): a randomised, multicentre, non-inferiority trial. Gillison ML, Trotti AM, Harris J, et al. Published:November 15, 2018. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32779-X

Guideline for Human Papilloma Virus Testing in Head and Neck Carcinomas

SUMMARY: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the US, there are more than 16,000 cases of Human PapillomaVirus (HPV)-positive OroPharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OPSCC) per year and there has been a significant increase in incidence during the past several decades. They represent approximately 70% of all OPSCC in the United States and Canada. Patients with HPV-positive OPSCC tend to be younger males, who are former smokers or nonsmokers, with risk factors for exposure to High Risk HPV (HR-HPV). The HPV-positive primary Squamous Cell Carcinoma tend to be smaller in size, with early nodal metastases, and these patients have a better prognosis compared with patients with HPV-negative Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC), when treated similarly. Expression of tumor suppressor protein, known as p16, is highly correlated with infection with HPV in HNSCC. Accurate HPV assessment in head and neck cancers is becoming important as it significantly impacts clinical management.Molecular-Characteristics-of-HPV-Positive-Head-and-Neck-Carcinomas
There is currently no consensus on when to test oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas for HPV/p16, and which tests to choose. The College of American Pathologists convened a panel of experts and following review of evidence from over 400 peer reviewed articles, came up with the following Guideline. This guideline is recommended for all new Oropharyngeal Squamous cell carcinoma patients, but not routinely recommended for other head and neck carcinomas.
Summary of Guideline Statements
1) High-Risk (HR) HPV testing should be performed on all patients with newly diagnosed OPSCC, including all histologic subtypes and may be performed on the primary tumor or a regional lymph node metastasis when the clinical findings are consistent with an oropharyngeal primary. This test should not be routinely performed on nonsquamous carcinomas of the oropharynx, or nonoropharyngeal primary carcinomas of the head and neck.
2) For oropharyngeal tissue specimens (ie, noncytology), HR-HPV testing should be performed by surrogate marker p16 ImmunoHistoChemistry (IHC). Additional HPV-specific testing may be done at the discretion of the pathologist and/or treating clinician, or in the context of a clinical trial.
3) HR-HPV testing by surrogate marker p16 IHC should be routinely performed on patients with metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of unknown primary in a cervical upper or mid jugular chain lymph node. An explanatory note on the significance of a positive HPV result is recommended.
4) HR-HPV testing should be performed on head and neck FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration) Squamous Cell Carcinoma samples from all patients with known OPSCC not previously tested for HR-HPV, with suspected OPSCC, or with metastatic SCC of unknown primary.
5) Pathologists should report p16 IHC positivity as a surrogate for HR-HPV in tissue specimens (ie, noncytology) when there is at least 70% nuclear and cytoplasmic expression with at least moderate to strong intensity.
6) Pathologists should not routinely perform low-risk HPV testing on patients with head and neck carcinomas.
7) For HPV-positive/p16 cases, tumor grade (or differentiation status) is not recommended.
8) HR-HPV testing strategy should not be altered based on patient smoking history.
9) Pathologists should report primary OPSCCs that test positive for HR-HPV or its surrogate marker p16 as HPV positive and/or p16 positive
Human Papillomavirus Testing in Head and Neck Carcinomas: Guideline From the College of American Pathologists. Lewis JS, Beadle B, Bishop JA, et al. https://doi.org/10.5858/arpa.2017-0286-CP

Guideline for Human Papilloma Virus Testing in Head and Neck Carcinomas

SUMMARY: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the US, there are more than 16,000 cases of Human PapillomaVirus (HPV)-positive OroPharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OPSCC) per year and there has been a signifiant increase in incidence during the past several decades. They represent approximately 70% of all OPSCC in the United States and Canada. Patients with HPV-positive OPSCC tend to be younger males, who are former smokers or nonsmokers, with risk factors for exposure to High Risk HPV (HR-HPV). The HPV-positive primary Squamous Cell Carcinoma tend to be smaller in size, with early nodal metastases, and these patients have a better prognosis compared with patients with HPV-negative Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC), when treated similarly. Expression of tumor suppressor protein, known as p16, is highly correlated with infection with HPV in HNSCC. Accurate HPV assessment in head and neck cancers is becoming important as it significantly impacts clinical management.Molecular-Characteristics-of-HPV-Positive-Head-and-Neck-Carcinomas

There is currently no consensus on when to test oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas for HPV/p16, and which tests to choose. The College of American Pathologists convened a panel of experts and following review of evidence from over 400 peer reviewed articles, came up with the following Guideline. This guideline is recommended for all new Oropharyngeal Squamous cell carcinoma patients, but not routinely recommended for other head and neck carcinomas.

Summary of Guideline Statements

1) High-Risk (HR) HPV testing should be performed on all patients with newly diagnosed OPSCC, including all histologic subtypes and may be performed on the primary tumor or a regional lymph node metastasis when the clinical findings are consistent with an oropharyngeal primary. This test should not be routinely performed on nonsquamous carcinomas of the oropharynx, or nonoropharyngeal primary carcinomas of the head and neck.

2) For oropharyngeal tissue specimens (ie, noncytology), HR-HPV testing should be performed by surrogate marker p16 ImmunoHistoChemistry (IHC). Additional HPV-specific testing may be done at the discretion of the pathologist and/or treating clinician, or in the context of a clinical trial.

3) HR-HPV testing by surrogate marker p16 IHC should be routinely performed on patients with metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of unknown primary in a cervical upper or mid jugular chain lymph node. An explanatory note on the significance of a positive HPV result is recommended.

4) HR-HPV testing should be performed on head and neck FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration) Squamous Cell Carcinoma samples from all patients with known OPSCC not previously tested for HR-HPV, with suspected OPSCC, or with metastatic SCC of unknown primary.

5) Pathologists should report p16 IHC positivity as a surrogate for HR-HPV in tissue specimens (ie, noncytology) when there is at least 70% nuclear and cytoplasmic expression with at least moderate to strong intensity.

6) Pathologists should not routinely perform low-risk HPV testing on patients with head and neck carcinomas.

7) For HPV-positive/p16 cases, tumor grade (or differentiation status) is not recommended.

8) HR-HPV testing strategy should not be altered based on patient smoking history.

9) Pathologists should report primary OPSCCs that test positive for HR-HPV or its surrogate marker p16 as HPV positive and/or p16 positive

Human Papillomavirus Testing in Head and Neck Carcinomas: Guideline From the College of American Pathologists. Lewis JS, Beadle B, Bishop JA, et al. https://doi.org/10.5858/arpa.2017-0286-CP

Management of Localized or Locally Advanced Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma – ASTRO Clinical Practice Guideline

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society estimates that 49,670 people will be diagnosed with Oral cavity and Oropharyngeal cancer in 2017 and an estimated 9700 patients will die of the disease. Over 90% of these malignancies are Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCCs). OroPharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OPSCC) involves the tonsils and base of the tongue, and recent studies have shown that over 70% of these tumors are caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and HPV-16 is the predominant type present in the tumor cells. The CDC estimates that more than 2,370 new cases of Human Papilloma Virus associated OPSCC are diagnosed in women and nearly 9,356 are diagnosed in men, each year in the United States, and this incidence has been on the rise.

The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) convened the OroPharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OPSCC) Guideline Panel which consisted of a multidisciplinary team of radiation, medical, and surgical oncologists, to perform a systematic literature review of studies published from January 1990 through December 2014, in an attempt to present evidence-based guidelines, for the treatment of OPSCC, with definitive or adjuvant Radiation Therapy (RT).

The following are the key questions and recommendations of the Guideline panel.

(1) When is it appropriate to add systemic therapy to definitive RT in the treatment of OPSCC?

Stage IVA-B disease

A) Patients with stage IVA-B tumors receiving definitive RT should receive concurrent high-dose intermittent Cisplatin.

B) Patients who are medically unfit for high-dose Cisplatin should receive concurrent Cetuximab or Carboplatin-Fluorouracil.

C) Weekly Cisplatin may be considered for patients who are medically unfit for high-dose Cisplatin.

D) Concurrent Cetuximab should not be administered in combination with chemotherapy.

E) Intra-arterial chemotherapy should not be used in this patient group.

Stage III disease

A) Patients with T3 N0-1 tumors should receive concurrent systemic therapy.

B) Patients with T1-T2 N1 tumors who are at a significant risk for locoregional recurrence may be considered for concurrent systemic therapy.

Stage I to II disease

Concurrent systemic therapy is not recommended for this patient group as there is no evidence supporting the use of systemic therapy in this generally favorable population.

(2) When is it appropriate to deliver PostOperative RT (PORT) with and without systemic therapy following primary surgery for OPSCC?

A) Concurrent high-dose intermittent Cisplatin should be delivered with PORT to patients with positive surgical margins and/or extracapsular nodal extension, independent of HPV status or the extent of extranodal tumor.

B) Concurrent weekly Cisplatin may be administered with PORT to patients who are considered inappropriate for standard high-dose intermittent Cisplatin, after a careful discussion of patient preferences and the limited evidence supporting this treatment schedule.

C) For the high-risk postoperative patient unable to receive Cisplatin-based concurrent chemoradiation therapy, RT alone should be routinely delivered without concurrent systemic therapy. Given the limited evidence supporting alternative regimens, treatment with non-Cisplatin systemic therapy should be accompanied by a careful discussion of the risks and unknown benefits of the combination.

D) Patients treated with PORT should not receive concurrent weekly Carboplatin, weekly Docetaxel or Cetuximab, either alone or in combination with chemotherapy, although such regimens are currently under investigation.

E) Patients treated with PORT should not receive concurrent Mitomycin-C, alone or with Bleomycin, given the limited evidence and experience supporting its use.

F) Postoperative chemotherapy should not be delivered alone or sequentially with postoperative RT.

Intermediate-risk pathologic factors such as lymphovascular invasion (LVI), perineural invasion (PNI), T3-4 disease, or positive lymph nodes

A) These patients should not routinely receive concurrent systemic therapy with PORT.

B) Concurrent Cisplatin-based chemotherapy may be considered if the post operative pathologic findings suggest significant risk of locoregional recurrence.

C) PORT should be delivered to patients with pathologic T3 or T4 and pathologic N2 or N3 disease.

D) PORT may be delivered to patients with pathologic N1 disease after a careful discussion with the patient.

E) PORT may be delivered to patients with LVI and/or PNI as the only risk factor(s), after a careful discussion with the patient.

No pathologic risk factors

PORT may be delivered to patients without conventional adverse pathologic risk factors only if the clinical and surgical findings imply a particularly significant risk of locoregional recurrence and after a careful discussion with the patient.

(3) When is it appropriate to use induction chemotherapy in the treatment of OPSCC?

Induction Chemotherapy should not be routinely delivered to patients with OPSCC.

(4) What are the appropriate dose, fractionation, and volume regimens with and without systemic therapy in the treatment of OPSCC?

A) For patients with stage III-IV disease a dose of 70 Gy over 7 weeks should be delivered to gross primary and nodal disease.

B) The biologically equivalent dose of approximately 50 Gy in 2 Gy fractions or slightly higher should be delivered electively to clinically and radiographically negative regions at-risk for microscopic spread of tumor.

C) Altered fractionation should be used in patients with stage IVA-B disease treated with definitive RT, who are not receiving concurrent systemic therapy as well as patients with T3 N0–1 disease not receiving concurrent chemoradiation. Additionally, it may be considered for patients with T1–2 N1 or T2 N0 disease at high risk for recurrence.

D) When treating OPSCC with concurrent systemic therapy,, either standard or accelerated fractionation may be implemented.

Adjuvant PORT

Adjuvant PORT should be delivered to regions of microscopically positive primary site surgical margins and extracapsular nodal extension at 2 Gy/fraction once daily to a total dose between 60 and 66 Gy.

Early T-stage tonsillar carcinoma

A) Unilateral RT should be delivered to patients with well-lateralized (confined to tonsillar fossa) T1-T2 tonsillar cancer and N0-N1 nodal category.

B) Unilateral RT may be delivered to patients with lateralized (<1 cm of soft palate extension but without base of tongue involvement) T1-T2 N0-N2a tonsillar cancer, without clinical or radiographic evidence of extracapsular extension, after careful discussion of patient preferences and the relative benefits of unilateral treatment versus the potential for contralateral nodal recurrence and subsequent salvage treatment.

Radiation therapy for oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma: Executive summary of an ASTRO Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline. Sher DJ, Adelstein DJ, Bajaj GK, et al. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prro.2017.02.002

OPDIVO® (Nivolumab)

The FDA on November 10, 2016 approved OPDIVO® for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck (SCCHN), with disease progression on or after a platinum-based therapy. OPDIVO® is marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb company.

FDA Approves OPDIVO® for Head and Neck Cancer

SUMMARY: The FDA on November 10, 2016, approved OPDIVO® (Nivolumab) for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck (SCCHN), with disease progression on or after a Platinum-based therapy. The American Cancer Society estimates that 61,760 people will be diagnosed with Head and Neck cancer in 2016 and 13,190 patients will die of the disease. Patients with recurrent/metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck have a poor prognosis with a median Overall Survival (OS) of about 13 months with first line therapy and about 6 months or less with later lines of therapy. The treatment paradigm for solid tumors has been rapidly evolving with a better understanding of immune evasion and the role of Immune checkpoints or gate keepers. Immune checkpoints are cell surface inhibitory proteins/receptors that are expressed on activated T cells. They harness the immune system and prevent uncontrolled immune reactions. Survival of cancer cells in the human body may be to a significant extent related to their ability to escape immune surveillance by inhibiting T lymphocyte activation. The T cells of the immune system therefore play a very important role in modulating the immune system. Under normal circumstances, inhibition of an intense immune response and switching off the T cells of the immune system, is an evolutionary mechanism and is accomplished by Immune checkpoints or gate keepers. With the recognition of Immune checkpoint proteins and their role in suppressing antitumor immunity, antibodies have been developed that target the membrane bound inhibitory Immune checkpoint proteins/receptors such as CTLA-4 (Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Antigen 4, also known as CD152), PD-1(Programmed cell Death 1), etc. By blocking the Immune checkpoints, one would expect to unleash the T cells, resulting in T cell proliferation, activation and a therapeutic response.

OPDIVO® is an immune checkpoint PD-1 (Programmed cell Death 1) targeted, fully human, immunoglobulin G4 monoclonal antibody that has demonstrated antitumor efficacy in multiple tumor types. The FDA approval of OPDIVO® for the treatment of recurrent or metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck (SCCHN), was based on the results of CheckMate-141 study which is a randomized, open label, phase III trial. In this study, 361 patients with recurrent Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck (cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, or larynx), whose disease had progressed within 6 months after Platinum-based chemotherapy, were randomly assigned, in a 2:1 ratio to receive OPDIVO® (N=240) or investigator’s choice of a standard, single agent therapy (N=121). OPDIVO® was administered at a dose of 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks, whereas standard therapy consisted of either weekly Methotrexate at a dose of 40-60 mg/m2 IV, weekly Docetaxel at a dose of 30-40 mg/m2 IV or Cetuximab administered at a loading dose of 400 mg/m2 followed by 250 mg/m2 IV weekly. The median age was 60 years, over 90% had received prior radiation therapy and 54.5% of the patients had received 2 or more lines of prior systemic therapies. The primary end point was Overall Survival and secondary end points included Progression Free Survival, Objective Response Rate, safety, and patient-reported quality of life measures. Prespecified analysis of Overall Survival according to tumor PD-L1 expression and p16 status was also performed.

The median Overall Survival was 7.5 months in the OPDIVO® group versus 5.1 months for the group that received standard therapy and this improvement was statistically significant (HR=0.70; P=0.01). The estimated 1-year survival rate was 36% in the OPDIVO® group and 16.6% with standard therapy. The median Progression Free Survival was 2.0 months with OPDIVO® versus 2.3 months with standard therapy and the rate of Progression Free Survival at 6 months was 19.7% with OPDIVO® versus 9.9% with standard therapy. The Objective Response Rate was 13.3% in the OPDIVO® group versus 5.8% in the standard therapy group. Even though preliminary biomarker analysis suggested that patients with a tumor PD-L1 expression level of 1% or more, or p16-positive tumors, or both, benefited more from OPDIVO® therapy than those whose PD-L1 level was less than 1% or who had p16-negative tumors, these interactions were not statistically significant. Treatment-related grade 3 or 4 adverse events were more common in the standard therapy group (35%) versus OPDIVO® group (13%) and quality of life measures were stable in the OPDIVO® group and were worse for those who received standard therapy.

The authors concluded that OPDIVO® prolonged survival, as compared with standard therapy, among patients with Platinum-refractory Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck and this benefit was accomplished with fewer toxicities, compared with standard therapy. Nivolumab for Recurrent Squamous-Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck. Ferris RL, Blumenschein G, Fayette J, et al. N Engl J Med 2016; 375:1856-1867