Epidemiological trends during the past decade suggest that although incidence of nasopharyngeal carcinoma is gradually declining, even in endemic regions, mortality from the disease has fallen substantially. This finding is probably a result of a combination of lifestyle modification, population screening coupled with better imaging, advances in radiotherapy, and effective systemic agents. In particular, intensity-modulated radiotherapy has driven the improvement in tumour control and reduction in toxic effects in survivors. Clinical use of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) as a surrogate biomarker in nasopharyngeal carcinoma continues to increase, with quantitative assessment of circulating EBV DNA used for population screening, prognostication, and disease surveillance. Randomised trials are investigating the role of EBV DNA in stratification of patients for treatment intensification and deintensification. Among the exciting developments in nasopharyngeal carcinoma, vascular endothelial growth factor inhibition and novel immunotherapies targeted at immune checkpoint and EBV-specific tumour antigens offer promising alternatives to patients with metastatic disease.
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