This article provides an update on the current understanding of adenoid cystic carcinoma of the head and neck, including a review of its epidemiology, clinical behavior, pathology, molecular biology, diagnostic workup, treatment and prognosis. Adenoid cystic carcinoma is an uncommon salivary gland tumor that may arise in a wide variety of anatomical sites in the head and neck, often with an advanced stage at diagnosis. The clinical course is characterized by very late recurrences; consequently, clinical follow-up should extend at least >15 years. The optimal treatment is generally considered to be surgery with postoperative radiotherapy to optimize local disease control. Much effort has been invested into understanding the tumor's molecular biological processes, aiming to identify patients at high risk of recurrence, in hopes that they could benefit from other, still unproven treatment modalities such as chemotherapy or biological therapy.
Keywords: Adenoid cystic carcinoma; Head and neck cancer; Molecular biology; Pathology; Prognosis; Salivary gland.
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