Metastatic Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma: Genomic Landscape and Emerging Treatments

Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2022 Aug;23(8):1135-1150. doi: 10.1007/s11864-022-01001-y. Epub 2022 Jul 19.


Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is a heterogeneous cancer that commonly develops in the salivary glands. Approximately 40 to 50% of patients with ACC develop recurrence and/or metastasis. Although most patients with ACC have slow-growing disease, a subset experiences aggressive disease with early visceral and/or bone metastasis. Thus far, there is no consensus on the best time to start palliative treatment in patients with indolent disease. The only systemic therapies available for recurrent or metastatic ACC are cytotoxic agents and multikinase inhibitors targeting vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, and both types of therapy have modest activity. Studies integrating proteomics, genomics, and clinical data have revealed distinct molecular ACC subtypes, ACC-I and ACC-II, with ACC-I generally associated with more aggressive disease biology. ACC-I tumors were enriched for NOTCH1-activating mutation and upregulation of MYC and MYC targets, while ACC-II tumors exhibited upregulation of TP63 and receptor tyrosine kinases. These findings highlight the importance of patient selection for surveillance and targeted therapy development in ACC. In recent clinical trials of targeted therapy in ACC, patients are being selected according to tumor molecular profile (e.g., presence of NOTCH-activating mutations), which represents a major advance in the field. Ongoing collaborative research focusing on the development of novel therapeutic strategies for ACC patients based on disease biology will increase the drug armamentarium and improve survival outcomes for these patients in dire need.

Keywords: Adenoid cystic carcinoma; Genomic landscape; Salivary gland cancer; Systemic therapy; Targeted therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic* / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic* / therapy
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A


  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A