Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Cancers (Basel)


The anti-PD1 monoclonal antibody pembrolizumab improves survival in recurrent/metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Patients with locoregional, pathologically high-risk HNSCC recur frequently despite adjuvant cisplatin-radiation therapy (CRT). Targeting PD1 may reverse immunosuppression induced by HNSCC and CRT. We conducted a phase I trial with an expansion cohort (n = 20) to determine the recommended phase II schedule (RP2S) for adding fixed-dose pembrolizumab to standard adjuvant CRT. Eligible patients had resected HPV-negative, stage III-IV oral cavity, pharynx, or larynx HNSCC with extracapsular nodal extension or positive margin. RP2S was declared if three or fewer dose-limiting toxicities (DLT) occurred in a cohort of 12. DLT was defined as grade 3 or higher non-hematologic adverse event (AE) related to pembrolizumab, immune-related AE requiring over 2 weeks of systemic steroids, or unacceptable RT delay. A total of 34 patients enrolled at 23 NRG institutions. During the first cohort, only one DLT was observed (fever), thus RP2S was declared as pembrolizumab 200 mg every 3 weeks for eight doses, starting one week before CRT. During expansion, three additional DLTs were observed (wound infection, diverticulitis, nausea). Of the 34 patients, 28 (82%) received five or more doses of pembrolizumab. This regimen was safe and feasible in a cooperative group setting. Further development is warranted.

PubMed ID








To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.