Pharmacotherapy of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis: an expert opinion

Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2009 Mar;10(4):645-55. doi: 10.1517/14656560902793530.


Background: Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis is caused by the human papillomavirus types (HPV) 6 and 11. It affects both children and adults. In a small number of cases, the disease can be very aggressive causing significant morbidity and possibly death. Surgical therapy is the primary treatment but in patients with aggressive disease, adjunctive therapy is initiated. The majority of these adjuncts center on immunomodulation, disruption of molecular signaling cascades or interruption of viral replication to help decrease the severity of the disease. Recently, a preventative vaccine has become available but data on its effectiveness will be at least a decade away. In the mean time, researchers are examining other vaccination strategies in the fight against HPV disease.

Objective: We will review the following pharmacotherapies used in the adjunct treatment of RRP: interferon, acyclovir, ribivirin, cidofovir, COX-2 inhibitors, retinoids, anti-reflux medications, zinc, indole-3-carbinol, therapeutic/preventative vaccines.

Methods: This is a review paper. Utilizing Medline and Pubmed from 1966 to present, the key words as well as the above listed adjunct treatments were searched for relevant papers.

Conclusion: The evidence supporting each of these adjuncts varies with a majority having only case reports or cases-series to support their use. However, there is hope on the horizon with regard to the HPV vaccine and its potential to prevent future transmission of this disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery
  • Papilloma / drug therapy*
  • Papilloma / pathology
  • Papilloma / surgery
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification
  • Papillomaviridae / physiology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / surgery
  • Tumor Virus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / pathology


  • Antiviral Agents