Head and Neck Cancers

Head and Neck Cancer

October, 2022 FDA Fast Tracks Investigational Drug With or Without Keytruda for Possible Approval for Head and Neck Cancer

November, 2022 Apatinib shows promise in recurrent, metastatic head-neck cancer

October, 2022 New Markers Identified for Head and Neck Cancer

September, 2022 A Shift in Focus for Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

August, 2022 Phase 2 Clinical Trial at Sylvester Studies First-in-class Drug for Head and Neck Cancers

Overview of Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer is the term given to cancers which develop above the collarbone. The most common sites for head and neck cancers are the oral cavity, throat, larynx, salivary glands, nose, and sinuses.

Oral Cavity: cancer of the oral cavity (the mouth and tongue) is the most common type of head and neck cancer. Most oral cancers arise in the tongue, the lip, the floor of the mouth, and the minor salivary glands.

Throat: nasopharyngeal cancer originates in the air pathway at the upper part of the throat behind the nose. Laryngeal cancer: laryngeal cancer arises in the larynx, located at the top of the trachea and responsible for speech (commonly called the voice box), is the second most common type of head and neck cancer.

Salivary Gland: salivary cancer originates in the salivary glands which produce saliva containing enzymes to begin food breakdown and digestion.

Nose: nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer originates in the space just behind the nose where air passes on the way to the throat and the air-filled areas that surround the nasal cavity.

The most common type (about 90%) of malignant tumor of the head and neck area is squamous cell cancer. Squamous cells are flat cells typically found in the lining of the mouth, nose and throat. Melanomas on the inside of the nose and lymphomas in the neck region are also classified as head and neck cancers.

Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer

Treatments of head and neck cancers may include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies.

If the tumor is small and hasn’t spread to lymph nodes or elsewhere, treatment is usually either surgery or radiotherapy.

Surgical techniques include:

Laser surgery: an endoscope with a high-intensity laser on the tip is used to destroy the tumor.

Cordectomy: part or all of the vocal cords are removed.

Laryngectomy: part or all of the larynx is removed.

Partial laryngectomy: partial removal of the voice box, leaving the rest of the larynx intact.

Total laryngectomy: the entire voice box is removed.

Pharyngectomy: part or all of the throat is removed.

Lymph node removal: the removal of lymph nodes in the neck to prevent the spread of the cancer.

Tracheotomy/Tracheostomy: the creation of an alternate pathway for breathing by creating a hole in the trachea (windpipe).

Radiofrequency thermal ablation (RFA): a treatment option that applies heat to localized tumors that cannot be removed by surgery.

Radiation: Radiotherapy may be the preferred treatment for cancers in areas of the head and neck that are difficult to reach, or where removing tissue can cause significant changes in speaking or swallowing.

If a head and neck cancer is larger, or has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, more than one type of treatment is usually needed, and may include a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapies.

For many head and neck cancers, targeted therapies against a tumor protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) may be used. The most commonly used targeted therapy is Cetuximab (Erbitux). Most squamous cell cancers of the head and neck have proteins (epidermal growth factor receptors called EGFRs) on their surface. Chemical messengers in the body, called growth factors, attach to these receptors and stimulate the cancer to grow. Cetuximab (Erbitux) stops the growth factors from attaching to receptors on the cancer and may stop it from growing. It may also make the cancer more sensitive to the effects of radiation and platinum based chemotherapy.

Clinical Trials for Head and Neck Cancer
Additional Educational Resources for Head and Neck Cancers

Educational Resources for Head and Neck Cancer from National Institutes of Health

Cancer.Net Educational resources

Head and Neck Cancer Alliance

SPOHNC: Support for people with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer

Head & Neck Cancer Guide

Recent News for Head and Neck Cancer

Biomarkers to Personalize Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer
March, 2018

Lower Radiation Doses Feasible for HPV-Positive Head and Neck Cancers
February 16, 2018

Nivolumab Plus Chemoradiation Safe For Advanced Head, Neck Cancer
February 15, 2018

Opdivo Safe for Head and Neck Cancer Patients on Radiation and Chemo, Phase 1 Trial Shows
February, 2018

Phase 2 Trial to Evaluate Combo of Imprime PGG, Keytruda in Head and Neck Cancer
February, 2018

The US Food and Drug Administration have given the OK for doctors to use Lymphoseek – a radioactive diagnostic imaging agent – to evaluate the spread of squamous cell carcinoma in the body’s head and neck region.

France is 17th country to allow patient enrollment in head, neck cancer trial
Drug Discovery and Development
July 31, 2014

Support Groups for Head and Neck Cancer

SPOHNC: Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer

American Cancer Society Head and Neck cancer support group chapters

HNC Support International

Inspire Support Community

American Head & Neck Society

Daily Strength Online Community Discussion Boards

The Swallows: not for profit for head and neck cancer

Cancer Care Support Groups

Gilda’s Club New York City

Imerman Angels (to connect directly with another survivor or caregiver through an organization that creates personal, one-on-one connections among patients, survivors, and caregivers)

Fighting Chance (free counseling service for cancer patients and caregivers).