Biomarkers predict p53 gene therapy efficacy in recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck

John Nemunaitis, Gary Clayman, Sanjiv S. Agarwala, William Hrushesky, James R. Wells, Charles Moore, John Hamm, George Yoo, Jose Baselga, Barbara A. Murphy, Kerstin A. Menander, Laura L. Licato, Sunil Chada, Robert D. Gibbons, Magali Olivier, Pierre Hainaut, Jack A. Roth, Robert E. Sobol, W. Jarrard Goodwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Purpose: Most recurrent squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck have a dysfunctional p53 tumor suppressor pathway contributing to treatment resistance. We hypothesized that tumor p53 biomarkers may predict the efficacy of normal p53 delivered by gene therapy in these patients. Experimental Design: Tumor p53 biomarkers were evaluated in 116 patients, including 29 treated with methotrexate in a phase III randomized controlled trial. Profiles favorable for p53 gene therapy efficacy were hypothesized to have either normal p53 gene sequences or low-level p53 protein expression, whereas unfavorable p53 inhibitor profiles were predicted to have high-level expression of mutated p53 that can inhibit normal p53 protein function. Results: A statistically significant increase in tumor responses was observed for patients with favorable p53 efficacy profiles compared with those with unfavorable p53 inhibitor profiles [phase I/II trials: favorable (34 of 46, 74%) versus unfavorable (1 of 5, 20%), P = 0.0290; phase III trial: favorable (17 of 24, 71%) versus unfavorable (2 of 11, 18%), P = 0.0088]. In the phase III trial, there was statistically significant increased time to progression (TTP) and survival following p53 gene therapy in patients with favorable p53 profiles compared with unfavorable p53 inhibitor profiles (median TTP, 2.7 months versus 1.4 months, P = 0.0121; median survival, 7.2 months versus 2.7 months, P < 0.0001). In contrast, the biomarker profiles predictive of p53 gene therapy efficacy did not predict methotrexate response, TTP, or survival outcomes. Conclusions: These results indicate that tumor p53 biomarker profiles may predict p53 gene therapy efficacy in recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7719-7725
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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