NEW YORK, NY –Thirty-nine-year-old Lin ShuiPing from Brooklyn was the first patient in the United States to be successfully treated in a new clinical trial being conducted at the New York Head and Neck Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital to treat his recurrent nasopharyngeal cancer. After being initially treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy for a year, Mr ShuiPing’s cancer came back in an area that is considered inoperable, severely limiting his treatment options. This new therapy has the potential to decrease the size of his recurrent tumor, potentially enabling curative surgery.
For two years, Mr. ShuiPing has been battling nasopharyngeal cancer, a type of head and neck cancer. Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) ranks sixth among the most common cancers worldwide, with an incidence of more than 500,000 new cases each year. Nasopharyngeal cancer, a subset of HNSCC, affects a high percentage of people of East Asian descent, particularly from Southern China. The primary treatment options for nasopharyngeal cancer are various combinations of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and potentially surgery if these initial treatments fail to eliminate the cancer. That’s the case with Mr Lin, except that his tumor recurrence was too large for surgery, which left him with no potentially curative treatment options until this study was initiated.
Physicians at the New York Head & Neck Institute and Lenox Hill Neurosurgery have developed a way to deliver a high dose of an anti-cancer medication, Cetuximab, to the tumor via its feeding arteries. In this way, a much higher dose of the anti-cancer medication can be safely delivered primarily to the tumor, sparing the rest of the body from the adverse effects of chemotherapy. Cetuximab is a recent addition to the lineup of drugs used to treat cancer. It is one of the newer ‘targeted therapies’, which are drugs used to target specific proteins expressed on cancer cells. Cetuximab targets a cancer cell protein called EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor), which is involved in controlling tumor growth. By using Cetuximab to target the EGFR receptors, tumor growth can be controlled and even decreased in size. The goal is to decrease the tumor size enough so that a follow-up surgical procedure will be able to finally remove it.
Importantly, this new chemotherapy protocol changes the goal of therapy for recurrent, unresectable nasopharyngeal tumors from palliation to potentially curative options. In addition to the new intra-arterial treatment protocol, doctors of the New York Head & Neck Institute have also developed unique endoscopic (minimally invasive) surgical procedures to remove recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinomas. This nasopharyngeal cancer program, one of the few centers in North America capable of such endoscopic nasopharyngeal surgery, is under the direction of Dr. Peter D. Costantino, MD, executive director of the New York Head and Neck Institute and chairman of otolaryngology at Lenox Hill Hospital.
"This trial is about renewed hope," says Dr. Peter Costantino, one of the principal investigators of this landmark trial. "It's a departure from the standard therapy and has the potential to create a whole new paradigm in head and neck cancer treatment.”
In addition to Dr. Costantino, the principal investigators for this trial are: John Boockvar, MD, director of the Brain Tumor Center at the New York Head and Neck Institute and Dennis Kraus MD, director of the Center for Head & Neck Oncology at the New York Head & Neck Institute, and the North Shore-LIJ Health System
For more information about this trial click here.