Immunotherapy Approaches Beyond PD-1 Inhibition: the Future of Cellular Therapy for Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • Hannan A. Qureshi
  • Sylvia M. LeeEmail author
Head and Neck Cancer (CP Rodriguez, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Head and Neck Cancer

Opinion statement

In a span of a few years, the surprising early successes of programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) inhibitors across a vast range of tumor types have transformed our understanding of cancer immunogenicity and provided proof of principle that T cells, if manipulated, can mediate meaningful tumor regression. In head and neck cancer, only a minority of patients respond to PD-1 therapy, but these small outcomes have fueled the enthusiasm for the next generation of immunotherapy—adoptive cell therapy—which employs recent advances in genetic engineering and cell culturing methods to generate T cells with enhanced anti-tumor efficacy for infusion back into the patient. Head and neck cancer is comprised of biologically distinct cancers, HPV-positive and HPV-negative, and the clinical responses to PD-1 inhibitors in both HPV-positive and HPV-negative head and neck patients have showcased better than any other cancer type that there are distinct pathways to immunogenicity that may lend themselves to different therapeutic approaches. Thus, head and neck cancer is uniquely poised to benefit from the personalized approach of adoptive cell therapy as well as provide a valuable platform to explore contrasting T cell modalities. In this article, we will review the growing portfolio of trials of adoptive cell therapies in head and neck cancer and discuss the future directions of this emerging new field.


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma Immunotherapy Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes Chimeric antigen receptor T cell receptor Adoptive cellular therapy 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Hannan A. Qureshi declares that he has no conflict of interest. Sylvia M. Lee is supported by research funding (paid to her institution) by Juno Therapeutics and Iovance Biotherapeutics.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck SurgeryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Division of Medical Oncology, Department of MedicineUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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