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Integrative Therapeutics Program
Nicole C. Schmitt, M.D., Otolaryngology Surgeon-Scientist
Our research is focused on optimizing the use of cisplatin chemotherapy for treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Cisplatin is the most commonly used and effective systemic drug for HNSCC, but it has significant adverse effects. Potential strategies to limit the toxicity of cisplatin without affecting anti-tumor efficacy include using alternative agents, combining lower-dose cisplatin with other agents, and using cisplatin in combination with other agents that protect normal cells of the inner ear and kidney without altering anti-tumor efficacy. Cell lines and a syngeneic mouse model are used to investigate the efficacy of cisplatin in combination with targeted biologic agents and putative protective agents.
Preliminary data from our lab and evidence from the literature suggest that cisplatin may have immune-modulating effects in the tumor microenvironment. We are studying putative immunomodulatory effects of cisplatin in cell lines and a syngeneic mouse model in a model, with the goal of combining cisplatin with immunotherapies in clinical trials to increase anti-tumor efficacy and limit toxicity.
Another interest of the lab is to characterize and prevent cisplatin-induced hearing loss in head and neck cancer patients. A clinical trial to assess the incidence and severity of hearing loss and cisplatin-treated patients with HNSCC is under development.