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Atlantic HPV Center to Help Lead Multicenter Trial of Novel Combination Treatment for Advanced Head and Neck Cancer Caused by HPV

April 12, 2018

 Dr. Missak Haigentz to Test Combination of Immunotherapies Against This Cancer in Patients Who Have No Other Options for a Cure

April 12, 2018, Morristown, NJ – Atlantic Health System’s new Atlantic HPV Center is one of a small number of research centers in the nation to begin a study to determine whether an innovative combination of immuno-oncology treatments is safe, shows preliminary efficacy and provokes an anticancer immune system response in patients with recurrent or metastatic human papilloma virus (HPV) associated head and neck squamous cancer. Recent evidence shows that as many as 70-90% of cases of squamous head and neck cancer – which was previously caused primarily by smoking – may now be caused by sexually transmitted HPV.

The Atlantic HPV Center at the Leonard B. Kahn Head and Neck Cancer Institute is the region’s only center dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, research and survivorship of HPV-associated head and neck cancers.

All participants in this Phase 1b/2a study will receive an experimental DNA HPV vaccine known as MEDI0457 or INO 3112, in combination with durvalumab (also known as Imfinzi™ or MEDI4736), another immunotherapy, approved by the FDA to treat bladder cancer and lung cancer. Durvalumab, a monoclonal antibody, works by blocking the interaction of PD-L1 with PD-1 and CD80, all proteins that prevent the immune system from attacking cancer cells. The MEDI0457 vaccine generates immune T cells specific to HPV-caused cancers. The study is sponsored by MedImmune, LLC.

The clinical trial is being led locally by nationally renowned head and neck and lung cancer researcher Missak Haigentz, MD. Dr. Haigentz serves as chief of hematology and oncology at Morristown Medical Center’s Carol G. Simon Cancer Center.

“By combining these two types of immunotherapy, including a therapeutic HPV vaccine, in this early stage study, we hope to show that there is a safe and potentially effective therapy for patients with few other treatment options for this aggressive cancer,” said Dr. Haigentz who is also medical director of Atlantic Hematology Oncology. “We are proud to have been chosen as one of a small number of study sites for this leading edge clinical trial, which is among the increasing number of clinical trials now available at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center.”

Among the Center’s eight head and neck cancer clinical trials are a number that are testing immunotherapies, which work with the patient’s immune system to destroy cancer cells. The studies cover the entire spectrum of disease settings, including rare cancers. They include very high profile studies of immunotherapy for which Atlantic Health System is the only center in New Jersey. These studies include novel approaches for HPV-associated head and neck cancers.

The Center provides a full complement of available treatments, diagnostic screenings and education and counseling for HPV-related head and neck cancers, in addition to the aforementioned clinical trials. The Center’s physicians are some of the world’s top experts in treating these cancers through the latest immunotherapy, chemotherapy, precisely targeted radiation therapy and minimally invasive surgical techniques and technologies, including transoral robotic surgery. A range of complementary therapies also help patients recover a sense of well-being following treatment.

According to the National Cancer Institute, head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck such as the mouth, nose and throat. These squamous cell cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. Head and neck cancers can also begin in the salivary glands, but salivary gland cancers are relatively uncommon. Head and neck cancers are expected to be diagnosed in more than 65,000 Americans this year.

To be eligible for this trial, participants must be over age 18, with confirmed head and neck squamous cell carcinoma associated with HPV. The study is designed for men and women whose cancer has recurred or spread (metastasized), who have received at least one regimen of platinum-based chemotherapy and lack a curative treatment option. Patients who are ineligible for platinum-based treatment may enroll if they have received an approved treatment that has not halted their disease progression and lack a treatment option with curative potential. Learn more about study inclusion and exclusion criteria >

Background on Dr. Haigentz

Dr. Haigentz joined Atlantic Health System Cancer Care this year from the National Cancer Institute-designated Albert Einstein Cancer Center in New York City, where he served as director of the clinical trials office and led several national and multicenter trials of cancer drugs. He held the academic rank of professor of medicine (oncology) and otorhinolaryngology – head and neck surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which is affiliated with the Albert Einstein Cancer Center.

A passionate physician, clinical researcher, educator and leader, Dr. Haigentz is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in cancers of the head and neck, including thyroid cancers, and in lung cancers. His research has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed manuscripts, review articles and book chapters, and he has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. He has held several leadership roles, including service as president of the New York Head and Neck Society (2014-2015). Throughout his career, Dr. Haigentz has taken pride in providing compassionate and personalized cancer care.

Dr. Haigentz earned his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1991 and his medical degree from the New Jersey Medical School in 1995. After completing residency training in internal medicine at New Jersey Medical School in 1998 (where he also served as chief resident), he received subspecialty fellowship training in hematology and oncology at the New York University School of Medicine. In 2001, Dr. Haigentz was recruited to the faculty of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he rose to the rank of professor of medicine (oncology) and otorhinolaryngology - head & neck surgery.

Dr. Haigentz sees patients at the Atlantic Hematology Oncology practice at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center - Morristown Medical Center campus at 100 Madison Avenue in Morristown. He can be reached at 973-971-7960. For more information on this clinical trial or other studies, please call the Atlantic Research Center at 973-971-5235.

About the Leonard B. Kahn Head and Neck Cancer Institute

The Leonard B. Kahn Head and Neck Cancer Institute provides care for benign and malignant tumors of the mouth, tongue, larynx, salivary glands, sinuses, skull base, and thyroid. The Institute is staffed by the most experienced, multidisciplinary team of head and neck cancer specialists in New Jersey dedicated to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, research and survivorship.

The Institute’s fellowship-trained surgeons utilize the most advanced minimally invasive techniques when possible, including transoral robotic surgery and endoscopic surgery; advanced reconstructive surgery following Mohs surgery; head and neck endocrine surgery, including thyroid and parathyroid; salivary gland surgery including parotidectomy with facial nerve preservation; skull base; and complex skin and soft tissue tumor surgery. A wide range of non-surgical options includes radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

The Leonard B. Kahn Head and Neck Institute also offers specialized expertise, diagnostic screenings, education and individualized treatment for HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers. Patients receive individualized treatment plans combining integrative medicine, acupuncture and Eastern healing traditions alongside supportive care from specialized oncology nurses, social workers, nutritionists and speech therapists. For more information about Leonard B. Kahn Head and Neck Cancer Institute or the Atlantic HPV Center, please call 973-971-7352.

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System, headquartered in Morristown, N.J., is an integrated health care delivery system powered by a workforce of 16,000 team members dedicated to building healthier communities. The system is comprised of 350 sites of care, including six hospitals: Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center, Newton Medical Center, Chilton Medical Center, Hackettstown Medical Center and Goryeb Children’s Hospital. Atlantic Health System also supports communities through Atlantic Medical Group, Atlantic Rehabilitation, Atlantic Home Care and Hospice, and its subsidiary, Atlantic Ambulance Corporation. Atlantic Health System sponsors the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization, one of the larger ACOs in the nation, and Optimus Healthcare Partners.