Adenoid cystic carcinoma of the head and neck: a review

Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004 Apr;12(2):127-32. doi: 10.1097/00020840-200404000-00013.


Purpose of review: This purpose of this article is to review and provide an update of current publications on the evaluation and management of adenoid cystic carcinoma.

Recent findings: Adenoid cystic carcinoma is an uncommon salivary gland malignancy that presents insidiously and is generally advanced when diagnosed. Current effective treatment modalities include surgery and irradiation, but locoregional recurrences are frequent and may present as early as 2 years. Patients survive with recurrent and metastatic disease for several years despite not being offered any treatment. Molecular analysis of the tumors is being undertaken, with optimistic results capable of selecting high-risk patients who may benefit from adjuvant treatment such as chemotherapy

Summary: Little progress has been made in advancing "curative" treatment of adenoid cystic carcinoma of the head and neck. The disease is said to have a fatal outcome. The time is now opportune for a multicenter, randomized, controlled trial to identify patients who would benefit from adjuvant radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy in the control of locoregional recurrences and the prevention of distant metastases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Skull Base Neoplasms / therapy