Chemotherapy in the treatment of locally advanced head and neck cancer

J Surg Oncol. 2008 Jun 15;97(8):701-7. doi: 10.1002/jso.21012.


Three decades of collaborative research have led to the integration of platinum-based chemotherapy into the curative management of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck and gains in local-regional control, organ preservation and survival endpoints. Concomitant cisplatin-based chemotherapy and radiotherapy is the strategy that has proven most effective for organ preservation for larynx and oropharynx cancers, the treatment of unresectable disease, nasopharyngeal cancer and the post-operative adjuvant treatment of patients at high risk of recurrence. The evolution of current indications for this multimodality approach is reviewed and current areas of investigation discussed. Nearly all patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer receive chemotherapy as part of initial curative treatment. The focus of future trials should be on survival improvement, toxicity reduction and risk stratification for treatment decision making.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cetuximab
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Cisplatin / therapeutic use
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Cetuximab
  • Cisplatin