for people ages 18 years and up (full criteria)
at La Jolla, California and other locations
study started
completion around
Principal Investigator
by Loren K Mell, MD
Headshot of Loren K Mell
Loren K Mell



To use novel methods for quantitative analysis of VFSS (videofluoroscopic swallow study, also known as modified barium swallow) to study and compare dysphagia in patients treated for head and neck carcinoma with concurrent radiation therapy and chemotherapy (cisplatin) or targeted therapy (cetuximab) vs. immunotherapy (pembrolizumab, nivolumab, or durvalumab).

Our hypothesis is that pharyngeal constriction will be greater (lower ratio) with concurrent immunotherapy compared to chemotherapy, as measured by the pharyngeal constriction ratio (PCR).

Official Title

QUantitative Assessment of Swallowing After Radiation (QUASAR): A Longitudinal Comparison of Swallowing Function by Systemic Therapy in Head and Neck Cancer Patients


The QUASAR study will use a prospective, observational, cross sectional design (See Schema). HNC patients treated with definitive RT and immunotherapy or chemotherapy (cetuximab or cisplatin) will undergo VFSS at 4-6 and 12-24 months post-treatment. Patients enrolled prior to 6 months after finishing therapy will undergo a swallow study during the 4-6 month period AND the 12-24 month period. Patients enrolled after 6 months after finishing therapy will undergo a single swallow study in the 12-24 month period. The primary endpoint of PCR at 12-24 months will be compared between patients treated with immunotherapy versus chemotherapy.

All patients with HNC treated with definitive RT and systemic therapy at our institution will be eligible. In particular, we will recruit patients for this study from participants in two ongoing trials investigating the use of concurrent immunotherapy. The KEYCHAIN trial ( Identifier: NCT03383094) randomizes patients with locally advanced p16+ HNC undergoing definitive RT to concurrent q3 week cisplatin versus concurrent and adjuvant pembrolizumab. NRG-HN004 ( Identifier: NCT03258554) is a cooperative group trial that compares HNC patients that are not eligible for cisplatin undergoing definitive radiation therapy to concurrent cetuximab versus durvalumab.


Head and Neck Cancer, Dysphagia, Oropharyngeal Dysphagia, Oropharynx Cancer, Oropharynx Squamous Cell Carcinoma, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, videofluoroscopic swallow study, modified barium swallow study, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Head and Neck Neoplasms, Oropharyngeal Neoplasms, Deglutition Disorders, Cisplatin, Pembrolizumab, Nivolumab, Cetuximab, Durvalumab, Chemotherapy


You can join if…

Open to people ages 18 years and up

  • Biopsy-proven, un-resected invasive carcinoma of the head and neck.
  • Treated with definitive RT and concurrent systemic therapy or treated within the past 4-24 months
  • Concurrent systemic therapy with Cisplatin, Cetuximab or immunotherapy.
  • Age ≥ 18
  • Able to understand and willing to sign a written informed consent.

You CAN'T join if...

  • Prior radiotherapy that would result in overlap of planned radiation therapy fields.
  • Prior systemic chemotherapy, unless as part of the coordinated plan of care for the treatment of the carcinoma (e.g., induction/neoadjuvant chemotherapy is allowed)
  • Planned adjuvant (i.e., following definitive chemoradiotherapy) chemotherapy or surgery


  • UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center accepting new patients
    La Jolla California 92093 United States
  • UCSD Moores Cancer Center accepting new patients
    La Jolla California 92093 United States

Lead Scientist at UCSD

  • Loren K Mell, MD
    Professor, Radiation Medicine and Applied Science, Vc-health Sciences-schools. Authored (or co-authored) 203 research publications. Research interests: Personalized Medicine · Clinical Trials · Risk Modeling · Immune System · Imaging · Immunotherapy


accepting new patients
Start Date
Completion Date
Loren Mell, MD
Study Type
Expecting 42 study participants
Last Updated