A potential treatment combination has been proposed to fight metastatic head and neck cancer (HNC) has been proposed by an international team of researchers led by PhD student Manu Prasad in the laboratory of Prof. Moshe Elkabets at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

They are targeting an aggressive type of HNC driven by hyper-activation of a specific signaling pathway, which is found in more than 40 percent of HNC cases. The current treatments available are ineffective.

The authors showed in preclinical HNC mice models that their combination regimen blocks this signaling pathway and sensitizes tumors to the immunotherapy, resulting in the disappearance of tumors.

This effective treatment was validated in four HNC cancer models, and most mice were cured with no recurrent disease. Working with Dr. Pierre Saintygn from Lyon, the authors also validated some of the findings in human HNC patients.

Their findings were published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer.

Prof. Moshe Elkabets. Photo by Dani Machlis/BGU

“Our unique ability to generate pre-clinical HNC models and to investigate new treatment and treatment combinations provides hope for HNC patients. We sincerely hope that oncologists will test this treatment combination in HNC patients, as improving immunotherapy efficacy is crucial for prolonging the survival of cancer patients,” said Elkabets.

The study was conducted by groups from Soroka University Medical Center and Barzilai Medical Center in Israel, Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York and Heidelberg Hospital in Germany.