Background: Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) has poor prognosis with median overall survival (OS) of ∼6 months. We previously reported high PD-1/PDL-1 staining in ATC, raising the possibility of the productive application of the immunotherapeutic pembrolizumab. However, having found pembrolizumab to anecdotally have limited single-agent activity in ATC, we sought to alternatively define whether pembrolizumab might synergistically combine with chemoradiotherapy as initial ATC therapy. Methods: An investigator-initiated therapeutic phase 2 trial of pembrolizumab, 200 mg intravenously (IV) every 3 weeks, combined with chemoradiotherapy (docetaxel/doxorubicin, 20 mg/m2 each IV weekly plus volumetric modulated arc therapy) was initiated as frontline therapy (with or without surgery) in ATC to assess efficacy and toxicities. Six-month OS was selected as the primary endpoint using a Simon's optimal design with interim analysis (targeting accrual of 25 patients; Cohort A: prior resection, Cohort B: no resection). Based on a prior patient cohort-treated similarly, but without pembrolizumab, the design was such that, if 6-month true survival is 75%, the probability of declaring the approach worthy of further pursuit would be 91%. Results: Three patients were enrolled, two with rapidly enlarging unresectable neck masses. Early tumor responses were favorable in all three, and all three satisfactorily completed: intended radiotherapy, preceding and radiotherapy-concurrent pembrolizumab, and concurrent chemoradiotherapy. However, all three patients died <6 months following therapy initiation - one from pulmonary metastases and two from otherwise unexpected fatal pulmonary complications occurring subsequent to chemoradiotherapy completion - prompting study closure. Conclusions: Although initially tolerated and effective in terms of locoregional disease control, disappointing survival outcomes compared with historical controls raise uncertainty that the piloted approach merits further pursuit in ATC.
- anaplastic thyroid cancer
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism