New head/neck cancer treatment begins clinical trials

David Raben, MD, and Antonio Jimeno, MD, of the University of Colorado Cancer Center have begun a clinical trial that tests the combination of a DNA repair inhibitor, a growth factor inhibitor, and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for improved treatment of head and neck cancer.

When used in conjunction with IMRT, the DNA repair inhibitor olaparib prevents cancer cells from repairing themselves after radiation treatment, according to the researchers.

For this clinical trial, they will combine customized molecular therapy with IMRT through tomotherapy for head and neck cancer patients with a poor prognosis. This will be the first time this dual-biologic approach will have been performed in the U.S. with radiation, according to Drs. Raben and Jimeno.

They predict that patients will have less acute toxicity using a biologic compound versus conventional chemotherapy, which, when combined with radiation in heavy smokers, has a poor outcome with progression-free survival rates below 50% at three years.

The clinical trial is set to last approximately 12 months.

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