Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a solid tumor type that arises in the squamous epithelial cells lining the mucosal surfaces of the upper aerodigestive tract. Long-term survival of patients with advanced disease stage remains disappointing with current treatment options. We show that tissue factor is abundantly expressed on patient-derived HNSCC cell lines, xenograft tumor material, and tumor biopsies from patients with HNSCC. Tisotumab vedotin (TV) is an antibody–drug conjugate (ADC) directed to tissue factor, a protein expressed in many solid tumors. HNSCC cells and xenograft tumors were efficiently eliminated in vitro and in vivo with TV-monotherapy compared with treatment with a control antibody conjugated to monomethyl auristatin E (MMAE). Antitumor activity of TV was also tested in vivo in combination with chemoradiotherapy, standard of care for patients with advanced stage HNSCC tumors outside the oral cavity. Preclinical studies showed that by adding TV to chemoradiotherapy, survival was markedly improved, and TV, not radiotherapy or chemotherapy, was the main driver of antitumor activity. Interestingly, TV-induced cell death in xenograft tumors showed an influx of macrophages indicative of a potential immune-mediated mode-of-action. In conclusion, on the basis of these preclinical data, TV may be a novel treatment modality for patients suffering from head and neck cancer and is hypothesized to improve efficacy of chemoradiotherapy.
This work shows preclinical in vitro and in vivo antitumor activity of the antibody–drug conjugate Tisotumab vedotin in head and neck cancer models, and enhanced activity in combination with chemoradiotherapy, supporting further clinical development for this cancer type.