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Sanford Health oncologist presents at national cancer conference

ASCO discusses immunotherapy and head and neck cancer

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Sanford Health’s Dr. Steven Powell presented his research and findings from an immunotherapy clinical trial at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting on June 6.

Dr. Powell spoke as part of the “What's Next in Immunotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer?” Clinical Science Symposium. He presented early findings from his ongoing clinical trial at Sanford exploring the use of immunotherapy in combination with curative-intent chemoradiotherapy for head and neck cancer. The head and neck cancer team at Sanford Health is performing one of the first clinical trials to incorporate a PD-1 inhibitor (pembrolizumab, Keytruda) into the standard treatment. The head and neck cancer team at Sanford Research pioneered this approach.

“It’s exciting to share our news with some of the biggest names in cancer,” Powell said. “With the recent success of cancer immunotherapy, it is essential that we identify the best way to integrate this novel therapy into curative-intent treatment strategies. This conference allows us an opportunity to highlight our work here at Sanford to inform the scientific community.”

Early data presented by Dr. Powell at the 2016 Society of Immunotherapy of Cancer Conference showed the approach is safe, and patients tolerated the treatment without major toxicities. The presentation at ASCO provided additional data on the safety of this approach. Further details are highlighted in the abstract published by ASCO.

The Sanford Cancer program has a strong history of bringing innovative therapies to patients through clinical trials, including several clinical trials that have led to recent FDA approvals. Today, Sanford Health has more than 300 active oncology clinical trials.

The annual meeting was in Chicago this year. It brings together more than 30,000 oncology professionals from around the world to discuss treatments, therapies and ongoing controversies in the field.

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

Jacqueline Palfy

Sanford Health Media Relations

605-366-2432 /