Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle
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Tipifarnib in HRAS-Mutant Head/Neck Squamous Cell Carcinomas

By: Kelly M. Hennessey, PhD
Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

In a phase II trial, patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas that have HRAS mutations in at least 20% of their tumors experienced a high rate of response to tipifarnib, according to Alan L. Ho, MD, PhD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Updated data from the study were presented at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Boston.

Tipifarnib inhibits the enzyme farnesyl transferase, which is a key enzyme required for the proper function of HRAS.

As of the data cutoff date, a total of 21 patients were enrolled in the trial, all of whom had head/neck squamous cell carcinomas with HRAS missense mutations at a high variant allele frequency. All patients received a median of two prior treatments and experienced disease progression on their previous therapy.

In total, 18 patients were evaluable for efficacy, 10 of whom achieved an objective response rate (56%). Of the 18 patients, the median progression-free survival with tipifarnib was 6.1 months, compared with 2.8 months on their last therapy.

“This is another example of how understanding the genomics and biology of a disease can be leveraged to develop new and effective cancer therapies,” concluded Dr. Ho in an AACR press release. Dr. Ho acknowledged the small sample size and commented that a larger study of the agent in this patient population is necessary to confirm these early results.

Disclosure: The study was sponsored by Kura Oncology, which provided funding for the research team.

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