Patients with HPV-unrelated head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HPV-unrelated HNSCC) show only modest benefit from treatment with PD-1 inhibitors (PD-1i). Targeting transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) may make PD-1i more effective by inducing T cell responses. In this issue of the JCI, Redman et al. performed a clinical trial in 14 patients with HPV-unrelated HNSCC using bintrafusp alfa, a bifunctional fusion protein that blocks PD-L1 and TGF-β. Primary tumors displayed pathologic responses with 5 of 14 patients having at least a partial response. While no primary tumor or metastatic lymph node demonstrated a complete pathologic response, the findings suggest that concurrent neoadjuvant inhibition of PD-L1 and TGF-β may provide a rational strategy to improve pathologic response and clinical outcome in patients with HPV-unrelated HNSCC.
R. Bryan Bell, Michael Gough, Marka Crittenden, Kristina Young
Model for how bintrafusp alfa may alter effector and suppressive elements in the tumor microenvironment to influence the response to immunotherapy.