Inhibition of mTOR Signaling and Clinical Activity of Rapamycin in Head and Neck Cancer in a Window of Opportunity Trial.

Author(s): Day TA,  Shirai K,  O'Brien PE,  Matheus MG,  Godwin K,  Sood AJ,  Kompelli A,  Vick JA,  Martin D,  Vitale-Cross L,  Callejas-Varela JL,  Wang Z,  Wu X,  Harismendy O,  Molinolo AA,  Lippman SM,  Van Waes C,  Szabo E,  Gutkind JS

Journal: Clin Cancer Res

Date: 2019 Feb 15

Major Program(s) or Research Group(s): LUACRG

PubMed ID: 30420444

PMC ID: PMC6377824

Abstract: PURPOSE: We studied the impact of mTOR signaling inhibition with rapamycin in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) in the neoadjuvant setting. The goals were to evaluate the mTOR pathway as a therapeutic target for patients with advanced HNSCC, and the clinical safety, antitumor, and molecular activity of rapamycin administration on HNSCC. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Patients with untreated stage II-IVA HNSCC received rapamycin for 21 days (day 1, 15 mg; days 2-12, 5 mg) prior to definitive treatment with surgery or chemoradiation. Treatment responses were assessed clinically and radiographically with CT and FDG-PET. Pre- and posttreatment biopsies and blood were obtained for toxicity, immune monitoring, and IHC assessment of mTOR signaling, as well as exome sequencing. RESULTS: Sixteen patients (eight oral cavity, eight oropharyngeal) completed rapamycin and definitive treatment. Half of patients were p16 positive. One patient had a pathologic complete response and four (25%) patients met RECIST criteria for response (1 CR, 3 PR, 12 SD). Treatment was well tolerated with no grade 4 or unexpected toxicities. No significant immune suppression was observed. Downstream mTOR signaling was downregulated in tumor tissues as measured by phosphorylation of S6 (P < 0.0001), AKT (P < 0.0001), and 4EBP (P = 0.0361), with a significant compensatory increase in phosphorylated ERK in most patients (P < 0.001). Ki67 was reduced in tumor biopsies in all patients (P = 0.013). CONCLUSIONS: Rapamycin treatment was well tolerated, reduced mTOR signaling and tumor growth, and resulted in significant clinical responses despite the brief treatment duration, thus supporting the potential role of mTOR inhibitors in treatment regimens for HNSCC.