The changing therapeutic landscape of head and neck cancer

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2019 Nov;16(11):669-683. doi: 10.1038/s41571-019-0227-z. Epub 2019 Jun 12.


Head and neck cancers are a heterogeneous collection of malignancies of the upper aerodigestive tract, salivary glands and thyroid. In this Review, we primarily focus on the changing therapeutic landscape of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) that can arise in the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx and larynx. We highlight developments in surgical and non-surgical therapies (mainly involving the combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy), outlining how these treatments are being used in the current era of widespread testing for the presence of human papillomavirus infection in patients with HNSCC. Finally, we describe the clinical trials that led to the approval of the first immunotherapeutic agents for HNSCC, and discuss the development of strategies to decrease the toxicity of different treatment modalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / therapy*