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Keywords:

  • antibodies;
  • immunity;
  • immune escape;
  • angiogenesis;
  • cytokines;
  • growth factors

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is an immunosuppressive malignancy. Interest in developing novel immunotherapies in HNSCC has been reawakened by the success of cetuximab, a therapeutic monoclonal antibody (mAb) against the epidermal growth factor receptor, which likely relies on immune as well as antisignaling mechanisms. This review focuses on novel therapeutic mAbs in current clinical development against established mechanisms of immune evasion in HNSCC, targeting: 1) tumor antigens, with resultant potential to induce antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity and T cell activation; 2) immunosuppressive cytokines; 3) costimulatory tumor necrosis factor–family receptors; and 4) coinhibitory immune checkpoint receptors. Clinical trials of immunotherapeutic mAbs as monotherapy, in combination with cytolytic standard therapies exposing tumor antigens or in combination with other immunomodulatory mAbs, are urgently needed in HNSCC. Cancer 2014;120:624–632. © 2013 American Cancer Society.