Effect of adding motolimod to standard combination chemotherapy and cetuximab treatment of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck the ACTIVE8 randomized clinical trial

Robert L. Ferris, Nabil F. Saba, Barbara J. Gitlitz, Robert Haddad, Ammar Sukari, Prakash Neupane, John C. Morris, Krzysztof Misiukiewicz, Julie E. Bauman, Moon Fenton, Antonio Jimeno, Douglas R. Adkins, Charles J. Schneider, Assuntina G. Sacco, Keisuke Shirai, Daniel W. Bowles, Michael Gibson, Tobenna Nwizu, Raphael Gottardo, Kristi L. ManjarrezGregory N. Dietsch, James Kyle Bryan, Robert M. Hershberg, Ezra E.W. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE: Immunotherapy for recurrent and/or metastatic (R/M) squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) is promising. The toll-like receptor 8 (TLR8) agonist motolimod may stimulate innate and adaptive immunity. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether motolimod improves outcomes for R/M SCCHN when combined with standard therapy. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: The Active8 study was a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial enrolling adult patients (age ≥18 years) with histologically confirmed R/M SCCHN of the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, or larynx between October 2013 and August 2015. Follow-up ended September 2016. Analysis for the present report was conducted between June 2016 and December 2017. INTERVENTIONS: Combination treatment with platinum (carboplatin or cisplatin), fluorouracil, cetuximab (the EXTREME regimen), and either placebo or motolimod, each administered intravenously every 3 weeks. Patients received a maximum of 6 chemotherapy cycles, after which patients received weekly cetuximab with either placebo or motolimod every 4 weeks. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Progression-free survival (PFS) as determined by independent central review using immune-related RECIST (Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors). Key secondary end points included overall survival (OS) and safety. RESULTS: Of 195 patients enrolled, 85% were men (n = 166); 82% were white (n = 159); median age was 58 years (range 23-81 years). Median PFS was 6.1 vs 5.9 months (hazard ratio [HR], 0.99; 1-sided 90% CI, 0.00-1.22; P = .47), and median OS was 13.5 vs 11.3 months (HR, 0.95; 1-sided 90% CI, 0.00-1.22; P = .40) for motolimod vs placebo. Increased incidence of injection site reactions, pyrexia, chills, anemia, and acneiform rash were noted with motolimod. Of 83 cases oropharyngeal cancer, 52 (63%) were human papillomavirus (HPV) positive. In a prespecified subgroup analysis of HPV-positive participants, motolimod vs placebo resulted in significantly longer PFS (7.8 vs 5.9 months; HR, 0.58; 1-sided 90% CI, 0.00-0.90; P = .046) and OS (15.2 vs 12.6 months; HR, 0.41; 1-sided 90% CI, 0.00-0.77; P = .03). In an exploratory analysis, patients with injection site reactions had longer PFS and OS (median PFS, 7.1 vs 5.9 months; HR, 0.69; 1-sided 90% CI, 0.00-0.93; P = .06; and median OS, 18.7 vs 12.6; HR, 0.56; 1-sided 90% CI, 0.00-0.81; P = .02). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Adding motolimod to the EXTREME regimen was well tolerated but did not improve PFS or OS in the intent-to-treat population. Significant benefit was observed in HPV-positive patients and those with injection site reactions, suggesting that TLR8 stimulation may benefit subset- and biomarker-selected patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1583-1588
Number of pages6
JournalJAMA Oncology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018


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