Phase II clinical study of valproic acid plus cisplatin and cetuximab in recurrent and/or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of Head and Neck-V-CHANCE trial

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Background: Recurrent/metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) has a poor prognosis and the combination of cisplatin and cetuximab, with or without 5-fluorouracil, is the gold standard treatment in this stage. Thus, the concomitant use of novel compounds represents a critical strategy to improve treatment results. Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) enhance the activity of several anticancer drugs including cisplatin and anti-Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (anti-EGFR) compounds. Preclinical studies in models have shown that vorinostat is able to down regulate Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) expression and to revert epithelial to mesenchimal transition (EMT). Due to its histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibiting activity and its safe use as a chronic therapy for epileptic disorders, valproic acid (VPA) has been considered a good candidate for anticancer therapy. A reasonable option may be to employ the combination of cisplatin, cetuximab and VPA in recurrent/metastatic SCCHN taking advantage of the possible positive interaction between histone deacetylase inhibitors, cisplatin and/or anti-EGFR. Method/Design: V-CHANCE is a phase 2 clinical trial evaluating, in patients with recurrent/metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck never treated with first-line chemotherapy, the concomitant standard administration of cisplatin (on day 1, every 3 weeks) and cetuximab (on day 1, weekly), in combination with oral VPA given daily from day -14 with a titration strategy in each patient (target serum level of 50-100μg/ml). Primary end point is the objective response rate measured according to Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST). Sample size, calculated according to Simon 2 stage minimax design will include 21 patients in the first stage with upper limit for rejection being 8 responses, and 39 patients in the second stage, with upper limit for rejection being 18 responses. Secondary endpoints are time to progression, duration of response, overall survival, safety. Objectives of the translational study are the evaluation on tumor samples of markers of treatment efficacy/resistance (i.e. γH2AX, p21/WAF, RAD51, XRCC1, EGFR, p-EGFR, Ki-67) and specific markers of VPA HDAC inhibitory activity (histones and proteins acetylation, Histone deacetylase isoforms) as well as valproate test, histones and proteins acetylation of peripheral blood mononuclear cell, tested on blood samples at baseline and at different time points during treatment. Discussion: Overall, this study could provide a less toxic and more effective first-line chemotherapy regimen in patients with recurrent/metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck by demonstrating the feasibility and efficacy of cisplatin/cetuximab plus valproic acid. Moreover, correlative studies could help to identify responder patients, and will add insights in the mechanism of the synergistic interaction between these agents. EudraCT Number: 2014-001523-69 Trial registration: number, NCT02624128

Original languageEnglish
Article number918
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 25 2016



  • Cetuximab
  • Cisplatin
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Histone deacetylase inhibitor
  • Valproic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research

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