Advances in Organ Preservation for Laryngeal Cancer

Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2022 Apr;23(4):594-608. doi: 10.1007/s11864-022-00945-5. Epub 2022 Mar 18.


At the University of Wisconsin, all treatment of head and neck cancer patients begins with discussion at our multi-disciplinary tumor board. Most patients with T4 disease, with existing laryngeal dysfunction, considered unlikely to complete definitive CRT or who have a high risk of persistent aspiration after non-operative management undergo total laryngectomy. A laryngeal sparing approach is attempted on most other patients. Radiotherapy is delivered over 6.5 weeks, preferably with concurrent weekly cisplatin. If the patient is hesitant of chemotherapy or has contraindications to cisplatin, concurrent cetuximab may be offered. Patients treated with RT alone are often treated to the same dose, but via an accelerated schedule by adding a 6th fraction per week. The 6th fraction is given by delivering two treatments at least 6 h apart on a weekday of the patient's choosing. We consider the following to be major risk factors for clinically significant weight loss during treatment: a 10% or greater loss of weight in the 6 months prior to starting treatment, delivery of concurrent cisplatin, and treatment of the bilateral neck with radiation. Patients who have 2-3 of these characteristics are often given gastrostomy tubes prophylactically. Patients are seen 2 weeks after completion of therapy, and then every 3 months after completion for 2 years. A CT neck and PET-CT are performed at the first 3-month visit. They are seen twice in year three, and then yearly until years 5-7. At each of these visits, we have a low threshold to present the patient at our multidisciplinary tumor board for consideration of salvage laryngectomy if there are signs of progression.

Keywords: Aryepiglottic; Arytenoids; Cancer; Cetuximab; Cisplatin; Head and neck; Hypopharynx; Immunotherapy; Laryngeal; Laryngectomy; Larynx; Locally advanced; Nivolumab; Pembrolizumab; Pharyngeal wall; Postcricoid; Preservation; Proton; Pyriform sinus; Radiation; Radiotherapy; SBRT; Squamous cell carcinoma; Subglottis; Supraglottis; Vocal cords; Vocal folds; Voice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Cisplatin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Organ Preservation
  • Organ Sparing Treatments / adverse effects
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography


  • Cisplatin