Systemic therapy for salivary gland malignancy: current status and future perspectives

Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2022 Apr 6;52(4):293-302. doi: 10.1093/jjco/hyac008.


Salivary gland malignancies are rare neoplasms that have a broad histological spectrum and a variety of biologic behaviors. Salivary gland malignancies are known as chemo-resistant tumors, which render optimal treatment challenging. This review summarizes the role of systemic therapy for salivary gland malignancies. To date, the advantage of adding concurrent chemotherapy has remained undefined for both postoperative and inoperable locally advanced salivary gland malignancy patients undergoing radiotherapy. For recurrent/metastatic disease, local and/or systemic treatment options should be discussed in a multidisciplinary setting with consideration to both patient needs and tumor factors. For symptomatic patients or those who may compromise organ function, palliative systemic therapy can be a reasonable option based on the results of phase II studies. Platinum combination regimens as first-line therapy have been widely accepted. Personalized therapies have become established options, particularly for androgen receptor-positive, HER2-positive and NTRK fusion-positive salivary gland malignancies (i.e. androgen receptor and HER2 in salivary duct carcinoma and NTRK3 in secretory carcinoma). For patients with adenoid cystic carcinoma, multi-targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors have also been developed. Anti-PD1 checkpoint inhibitors have shown limited activity to date. Investigation of active systemic treatments for salivary gland malignancy remains a significant unmet need. Future directions might include a more comprehensive genomic screening approach (usually next-generation sequencing-based) and combination strategies using immune checkpoint inhibitors. These are rare malignancies that require ongoing effort in the conduct of high-quality clinical trials.

Keywords: chemotherapy; immunotherapy; personalized therapy; salivary gland malignancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Carcinoma*
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic* / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Androgen / therapeutic use
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms* / genetics


  • Receptors, Androgen