A trial of adavosertib for head and neck cancer (WISTERIA)

Cancer type:

Head and neck cancers
Laryngeal cancer
Mouth (oral) cancer




Phase 1

This trial looked at a drug called adavosertib (AZD1775) before surgery and after surgery for head and neck cancer. It was for people who had one of the following head and neck cancers:

study diagram

The trial was open for people to join between 2017 and 2019. The team published the results in 2024.

More about this trial

The standard treatment for head and neck cancer is surgery. After surgery you might have a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin with, or without radiotherapy.

Laboratory studies showed that adavosertib helped cisplatin and radiotherapy to work better.

In this trial, researchers wanted to find out if adavosertib can be used with:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy
  • chemoradiotherapy Open a glossary item

There were 2 groups in this trial: 

  • group A had adavosertib and cisplatin before surgery
  • group B had adavosertib, radiotherapy and cisplatin after surgery

The aims of this trial were to find:

  • the best dose of adavosertib to have with cisplatin before surgery
  • the best dose of adavosertib to have with radiotherapy and cisplatin after surgery
  • what happens to adavosertib in the body
  • how having adavosertib with cisplatin and radiotherapy after surgery affects people’s quality of life Open a glossary item

Summary of results

This was a phase 1 trial Open a glossary item. Of the 9 people who joined:

  • 3 people were in Group A
  • 6 people were in Group B

During the trial, 2 people from Group B stopped taking part. One person had 2 weeks of treatment with adavosertib. The other person decided to stop taking part in the trial before starting treatment with adavosertib. 

The trial team decided to close the trial early. This was because:

  • very few people were joining the trial and
  • how bad the side effects of adavosertib with cisplatin and radiotherapy were for people in Group B

The team used a new design in this trial. This design was to do with assessing people’s side effects more effectively to work out the best dose of adavosertib. This helped the team find out more about the benefits of using this design for:

  • people with complex problems such as head and neck cancer and 
  • early phase trials 

Adverse Events
Most people taking part had at least one side effect during the trial. These may have been caused by the trial treatment. But they may have been caused by something else such as other medication, the cancer itself or another medical condition.

The adverse events experienced in this trial which may, or may not be related to adavosertib were:

  • a sore, inflamed mouth
  • problems swallowing 
  • feeling or being sick 
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • tiredness 
  • changes to taste 
  • changes to appetite
  • a high temperature with a low level of white blood cells Open a glossary item 
  • low levels of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphate in the blood

As the trial closed early the team could not come to any conclusion about adavosertib as a treatment for head and neck cancer. 

They said that the trial design they used should be considered for future trials for people with complex problems such as head and neck cancer. 

More detailed information
There is more information about this research in the reference below. 

Please note, the information we link to here is not in plain English. It has been written for healthcare professionals and researchers.

Results and lessons learnt from the WISTERIA phase I trial combining AZD1775 with cisplatin pre- or post-operatively in head and neck cancer

A Kong and others
British Journal of Cancer 2024. Article number 6.

Where this information comes from    
We have based this summary on the information in the article above and from the trial team. This has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. We have not analysed the data ourselves. As far as we are aware, the link we list above is active and the article is free and available to view.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Hisham Mehanna

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
University of Birmingham 

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Wendy took part in a new trial studying the possible side effect of hearing loss

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"I was delighted to take part in a clinical trial as it has the potential to really help others in the future.”

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