Providence opens groundbreaking immunoradiotherapy clinical trial for patients with newly diagnosed head and neck cancer

March 08, 2018

Many clinical trials are open only to patients with metastatic disease. One of the translational research goals of the Providence Head and Neck Cancer Program is to bring immunotherapy into treatment earlier. “We want to harness the power of the immune system before the cancer has had a chance to spread,” says medical director R. Bryan Bell, M.D., DDS, FACS.

Toward that end, Providence Cancer Institute recently initiated a groundbreaking study to offer condensed immunoradiotherapy to patients with newly diagnosed head and neck cancers:

Study: Neoadjuvant Immunoradiotherapy in Head & Neck Cancer

In this study, patients will be treated with radiation therapy for five consecutive days while receiving immunotherapy. Data from pioneering studies by Marka Crittenden, M.D., Ph.D., suggest that radiation can boost responses to immunotherapy. The immunotherapy will be followed by surgery to ensure that all of the cancer is removed.

“We think that this will not only limit the spread of cancer, but also improve quality of life for patients,” says Dr. Bell. On the conventional regimen of high-dose chemotherapy and radiation for HPV-related throat cancer, for example, about 10 percent of patients still develop distant metastases. The hopes for this trial, says Dr. Bell, are “to use immunotherapy to reduce that rate of distant metastasis and to improve local control; to improve quality of life by decreasing the duration of radiation therapy; and to eliminate the need for chemotherapy.”

Providence Cancer Institute is the only site in the world offering this study.

See study details here.

More oral, head and neck cancer studies

Providence Cancer Institute currently has more than a dozen phase 1 combination immunotherapy trials open for patients with head and neck cancers (some are listed under oral, head and neck cancer studies, and others are listed with studies for multiple tumor types). Studies are open for patients at all stages of disease.

To refer patients to any of these studies, call Providence Cancer Institute’s Clinical Research office at 503-215-2614 or visit

Providence Head and Neck Cancer Clinic

The Providence Head and Neck Cancer Clinic offers world-class care for patients with benign and malignant tumors of the oral cavity (mouth), tongue, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), nose, paranasal sinuses, salivary glands and thyroid gland, as well as tumors at the skull base. Our medical and surgical oncology teams work collaboratively to start patients on treatment regimens very quickly.

The clinic’s co-directors – medical oncologist Rom Leidner, M.D., and oncological surgeon R. Bryan Bell, M.D., DDS, FACS – are innovative leaders committed to elevating the current standard of care for oncology patients by offering advancements such as pre-operative immunotherapy. Their aim is to improve surgical outcomes and reduce the risk of recurrence.