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Systemic therapy strategies for head-neck carcinomas: Current status []

Author(s): Hoffmann, Thomas K.

Journal: GMS Current Topics in Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery
ISSN 1865-1011

Volume: 11;
Start page: Doc03;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: head-neck carcinoma | squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck | medical therapy | chemotherapy | antibody | targeted therapy | biological

[english] Head and neck cancers, most of which are squamous cell tumours, have an unsatisfactory prognosis despite intensive local treatment. This can be attributed, among other factors, to tumour recurrences inside or outside the treated area, and metastases at more distal locations. These tumours therefore require not only the standard surgical and radiation treatments, but also effective modalities. The main option here is antineoplastic chemotherapy, which is firmly established in the palliative treatment of recurrent or metastatic stages of disease, and is used with curative intent in the form of combined simultaneous or adjuvant chemoradiotherapy in patients with inoperable or advanced tumour stages. Neoadjuvant treatment strategies for tumour reduction before surgery have yet to gain acceptance. Induction chemotherapy protocols before radiotherapy have to date been used in patients at high risk of distant metastases or as an aid for decision-making (“chemoselection”) in those with extensive laryngeal cancers, prior to definitive chemoradiotherapy or laryngectomy. Triple-combination induction therapy (taxanes, cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil) shows high remission rates with significant toxicity and, in combination with (chemo-)radiotherapy, is currently being compared with simultaneous chemoradiotherapy; the current gold standard with regards to efficacy and long-term toxicity.A further systemic treatment strategy, called “targeted therapy”, has been developed to help increase specificity and reduce toxicity. An example of targeted therapy, EGFR-specific antibodies, can be used in palliative settings and, in combination with radiotherapy, to treat advanced head and neck cancers. A series of other novel biologicals such as signal cascade inhibitors, genetic agents, or immunotherapies, are currently being evaluated in large-scale clinical studies, and could prove useful in patients with advanced, recurring or metastatic head and neck cancers. When developing a lasting, individualised systemic tumour therapy, the critical evaluation criteria are not only efficacy and acute toxicity but also (long-term) quality-of-life and the identification of dedicated predictive biomarkers.
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