Management of adenoid cystic carcinoma of the head and neck: a single-institute study with over 25-year follow-up

Head Face Med. 2020 Jul 2;16(1):14. doi: 10.1186/s13005-020-00226-2.


Background: Adenoid cystic carcinoma is a rare malignant tumor arising from exocrine glands such as the major and minor salivary glands of the paranasal sinuses or the external auditory canal. Although multiple retrospective clinical studies of ACC have been reported to date, clinical questions, such as 1) long-term prognosis beyond 20 years, 2) usefulness and suitability for treatment of therapeutic interventions, 3) therapeutic goal to aim for, and 4) prognosis by recurrence sites, are still unclear.

Methods: To improve understanding and management of adenoid cystic carcinoma of the head and neck (ACC), a retrospective study with 58 new ACC cases between 1991 and 2016 was performed. The median observation period was 66.8 months (range 3-316 months). The overall clinical stages were as follows: I, 6.9%; II, 25.9%; III, 19.0%; and IV, 48.2%. Histology was cribriform/tubular type (C-T type) in 62.0% and solid type in 27.5%. The main treatment strategy was definitive surgery, which was performed in 75.2% of cases.

Results: Overall 10-year, 20-year, and 25-year survivals were 63.7, 27.3, and 20.0%, respectively. Similarly, disease-specific survival (DSSs) was 65.7, 51.2, and 38.4%, respectively, and disease-free survival was 25.2, 9.4, and 9.4%, respectively. Conducting surgery (HR: 0.19, 95% CI: 0.06-0.61, p = 0.005) and C-T type (HR: 0.32, 95% CI: 0.11-0.93, p = 0.036) were independent prognostic predictors of DSS. DSS was significantly prolonged after salvage surgery for both locoregional recurrence (p = 0.004) and lung metastatic recurrence (p = 0.012, vs best supportive care).

Conclusions: In ACC cases, both initial surgical treatment and repetitive surgical resection of resectable recurrent lesions, including both locoregional and lung metastases, resulted in longer survival. The major goal of treatment for ACC may be long-term survival including cancer-bearing survival, resulting in either natural death or intercurrent-disease death, since judging cure of ACC is almost impossible.

Trial registration: Retrospectively registered.

Keywords: Adenoid cystic carcinoma; Head and neck; Histology; Lung metastasectomy; Management; Prognostic predictors; Salvage treatment; Solid type; Surgery; Treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic* / surgery
  • Child
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Young Adult