Recent advances in the treatment of salivary gland cancers: emphasis on molecular targeted therapy

Oral Oncol. 2007 Sep;43(8):729-34. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2006.12.012. Epub 2007 Mar 9.


Salivary gland cancers include tumors of different histologic characteristics and biological behavior. Radical surgery, followed or not by radiation therapy, represents the main treatment approach for this disease. The role of systemic chemotherapy is less clearly defined since trials of single-agent chemotherapy have consistently shown low response rates. Polychemotherapy is likely to induce a higher response rate, but does not improve survival. The determination of the molecular abnormalities underlying the different subtypes of salivary gland cancers might lead to more active targeted therapies. C-kit is overexpressed in a wide percentage of salivary gland carcinomas, but clinical trials with single-agent imatinib have been negative. ErbB1 and ErbB2 are also frequently overexpressed in salivary gland cancers and this has provided the rationale for clinical trials with trastuzumab, cetuximab, gefitinib, lapatinib. Finally, new pathways, such as vascular endothelial growth factor, might be worth targeting and clinical trials with anti-angiogenic agents are ongoing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / surgery
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • Receptor, ErbB-2