Background: Recently, two anti-PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors, pembrolizumab and nivolumab, have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for patients who fail on platinum-based chemotherapy. However, overall response and progression-free survival are still limited, and multiple novel agents are under development to fulfill this unmet clinical need. Methods: Publications between 1992 and 2019 regarding the immunological/biological mechanisms and early phase clinical trial outcomes of immunomodulatory agents for head and neck cancer were described in this review article. Results: Eleven immunomodulatory agents for advanced head and neck, including small molecules, antibodies, and therapeutic vaccines were described. Treatment responses were noted in nearly all 11 agents, as monotherapy or combination therapy. Conclusions: Potentials of the novel immunomodulatory agents to improve treatment efficacy of head and neck cancer and to maintain tolerable safety profile have been disclosed.
- head and neck cancer