Oncology | Leveraging the Clinical Benefits of ICIs in HNSCC

Although immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have been well integrated into standard practice for patients with some tumor types, such as melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and renal cell carcinoma, use of immunotherapy to treat head and neck cancer is more recent. After approvals for nivolumab and pembrolizumab in the setting of recurrent disease several years ago, positive results with pembrolizumab in the front-line have resulted in the approval of the agent for patients with previously untreated metastatic disease. In this activity, we will review the immunology of head and neck cancer and the mechanisms that are thought to underlie the activity of ICIs in this setting. Using a hypothetical patient case scenario, eligibility for immunotherapy will be delineated, including prognostic implications of PD-L1 status, presence and severity of symptoms and tumor burden, and the advantages and risks of monotherapy versus combination regimens. This activity will further examine the potential adverse effects of ICI treatment, such as pembrolizumab, as well as a discussion of appropriate management of those side effects. Finally, we will address future directions, and more broadly, look at investigational agents and novel combinations currently being studied.


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Available credit: 
  • 0.50 ANCC
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Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Chair and Planner
David S. Ettinger, MD, FACP, FCCP
Alex Grass Professor of Oncology
The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins
Baltimore, Maryland

Faculty Author
Ranee Mehra, MD
Director of Head and Neck Medical Oncology
Professor of Medicine
Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center
Baltimore, Maryland


  • Accreditation Statement:  The Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.
  • Statement of Contact Hours:  This educational activity is provided by The Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing. The  contact hours will be awarded from the Oncology Consults website after the completion.
  • Conflict of Interest:  It is the policy of The Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing to require our continuing nursing education program faculty and planning committee members to disclose any financial relationships with companies providing program funding or manufacturers of any commercial products discussed in the program.  The planning committee and program faculty report that they do not have financial relationships with manufacturers of any commercial products they discuss in the program.
  • Commercial Support:  This educational activity has not received any form of commercial support.
  • Non-Endorsement of Products:  The Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing and the American Nurses Credentialing Center does not endorse the use of any commercial products discussed or displayed in conjunction with this educational activity.

Available Credit

  • 0.50 ANCC


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