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Unicancer Head & Neck (UCHN)

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Questions about our expert group, research or clinical trials?

Created in 1991, this cooperative group joined the head and neck intergroup certified by the INCa end 2016, alongside the GORTEC, GETTEC, GERCOR and REFCOR groups. Its main ambition is to develop and sponsor innovative phase I-II clinical trials in head and neck cancer.


Major events

The partnership with the head and neck radiotherapy oncology group (Groupe d’oncologie radiothérapie tête et cou – GORTEC), the head and neck tumours study group (Groupe d’étude des tumeurs de la tête et du cou – GETTEC), the multidisciplinary oncology cooperative group (Groupe coopérateur multidisciplinaire en Oncologie – GERCOR) and the French network REFCOR, within the head and neck intergroup certified by the INCa (Institut National du cancer), was officially ratified in December 2016. Unicancer and the GORTEC also set up a research partnership in December 2017.

The Unicancer H&N group is also represented within the international H&N group (HNCIG), which especially aims to promote international partnerships to conduct large scale clinical trials, lead research on rare cancers, harmonise practices and promote translational research.

In 2019, the UCHN group created a translational steering committee to help investigators plan translational research related to clinical trials, and to promote the use of already existing collections.

The year 2020 was marked by the launch of two new studies:

  • The ICING study evaluating Bintrafusp alfa, a new immunotherapy designed to simultaneously target the TGF-β and PD-L1 pathway.
  • The PATHOS study, new study in collaboration with international centres after the EORTC 1206 trial. It is a de-escalation study sponsored by Cardiff University and Velindre University NHS Trust.


A UCHN board, whose members are the group president, representatives from the different specialities involved in the management of head and neck cancers and a Unicancer representative meet monthly in order to determine the strategic directions of the group, to discuss ongoing and future collaborations and ongoing clinical studies and new projects in the pipeline.

A UCHN Steering Committee meeting, bringing together stakeholders from the Centres de Lutte Contre le Cancer involved in treating head and neck cancers, takes place three times per year, to report on inclusions in studies, to review any current concerns with ongoing trials (recruitment difficulty, etc.) and to discuss the scientific usefulness and the feasibility of future trials and projects to come.

A Translational Steering Committee was set up in 2019. It is chaired by Prof. Christophe Le Tourneau (Institut Curie, Paris) and by Ellen Van Obberghen-Schilling (Institut de Biologie Valrose, Nice) and meets three times a year to discuss the translational projects related to the clinical trials conducted by the UCHN group but also by the various head and neck intergroup members.


Created in 1991, this group was initially a head and neck discussion group for the Centres. It was restarted in 2009 in order to develop and offer innovative phase I/II studies. It joined the head and neck intergroup certified by the INCa in 2016, alongside the GORTEC, GETTEC, GERCOR and REFCOR groups.

Strategic directions

The group has set itself the following strategic directions:

  • Develop and sponsor innovative phase I-II clinical trials in head and neck cancer,
    • Promote translational research and use existing biological collections,
    • Lead research programmes in rare head and neck tumours such as salivary gland cancer by promoting exchanges with regulatory authorities and patients’ associations
    • Maintain collaboration with French academic stakeholders and reinforce international collaborations,
    • Promote training of teams involved in the group’s projects.

Flagship projects / clinical trials

ORL09-TOPNIVO: Phase II trial evaluating the safety of nivolumab in patients with relapsing and/or metastatic head and neck cancer refractory to platinum salts. The results obtained further to the treatment of 343 patients included in the study were presented at the 2020 ESMO. The samples collected as part of this trial are still being used to study biological and radiological response markers.

ORL12-ICING: Phase II trial evaluating the efficacy of bintrafusp alfa treatment, a bifunctional fusion protein targeting TGF-β and PD-L1, preoperatively in patients with resectable, untreated squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. This trial, evaluating an innovative molecule, was started in 2020 and plans to include 59 patients. An ambitious translational research programme is associated with this trial to study how the new treatment works and the response to the treatment.

Related programmes/partners

National and international collaborations

  • Head and neck intergroup
  • Groupe d’oncologie radiothérapie tête et cou (GORTEC)
  • Groupe d’étude des tumeurs de la tête et du cou (GETTEC)
  • Groupe coopérateur multidisciplinaire en Oncologie (GERCOR)
  • Réseau d’expertise français sur les cancers ORL rares (REFCOR)
  • Head and Neck Cancer International Group (HNCIG)
  • European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)
  • Fédération de Groupement des Entreprises Françaises dans la Lutte contre le Cancer (FEGEFLUC)

How to join

The group is open to new members. You can send your application to the group’s office.

How to put forward a research project?

To promote a research project, you must contact the group coordinators or the Unicancer programmes manager.  The project is then discussed within the group so as to decide whether the project will be led by the group and sponsored by Unicancer.

CRA training days in oncology-head and neck clinical research: aims to provide information about head and neck cancer and ongoing clinical trials. This day is specifically organised for CRAs working on projects by the UCHN group. The objective is to improve knowledge of head and neck diseases and to thus improve the quality of the group’s research.

GORTEC and head and neck intergroup days: dedicated to clinical trials led by the various intergroup collaboration group members, both ongoing and to come.

Make Sense campaign: The UCHN group has partnered with Fegefluc to carry out actions as part of the European campaign to raise awareness of head and neck cancer among the population.

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Flagship programs