Newswise — SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The results of a study by a Sanford Health researcher that found a new immunotherapy for advanced head and neck cancers were recently reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The work of Dr. Steven Powell, who co-authored the KEYNOTE-055 study, was published in the March 22 edition of the journal.

The paper describes the benefit of pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy, in patients with advanced head and neck cancer. It was based on a study that opened in October 2014 and was the first of now many immunotherapy clinical trials offered through Sanford Research. In August 2016, Pembrolizumab was granted FDA-approval for use in these patients.

KEYNOTE-055 gave patients at Sanford Health access to this therapy nearly two years before it was available for routine use. Sanford Research was one of 31 partner institutions to offer the trial, including MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering and the Dana Faber Cancer Institute.

“This study highlights the importance for cancer patients to have access to clinical trials,” states Steven Powell, M.D., medical oncologist at Sanford Cancer Center in Sioux Falls. “Through this study, participants were able to receive this practice-changing treatment long before it was available to the general public.”

Pembrolizumab, an anti-programmed death 1 receptor antibody, showed clinically meaningful antitumor activity and had an acceptable safety profile, according to the paper.

Clinical trials are a hallmark at Sanford Research, where scientists and physicians recognize their potential to bring early access to the next generation of therapies.

“This solidifies Sanford Health as a national leader in cancer care, immunotherapies and research,” said David Pearce, Ph.D., executive vice president of Sanford Research. “Bringing our research and knowledge back to our patients and the public is part of the greater good we all strive for.”

About Sanford Health
Sanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in the Dakotas. It is one of the largest health systems in the nation with 45 hospitals and nearly 300 clinics in nine states and four countries. Sanford Health’s 28,000 employees, including more than 1,300 physicians, make it the largest employer in the Dakotas. Nearly $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford have allowed for several initiatives, including global children's clinics, genomic medicine and specialized centers researching cures for type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and other diseases. For more information, visit


Register for reporter access to contact details

Journal of Clinical Oncology