Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology
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Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 1/2013
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ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about these types of cancer and how to treat them. To see other pages in this guide, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen, or click “Next” at the bottom.

Doctors are working to learn more about laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer, ways to prevent them, how to best treat them, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with these diseases. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

Radiation therapy approaches. Researchers are evaluating more effective ways of using radiation treatment. One promising approach, radiosensitization, involves giving drugs that make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy so they can be destroyed more easily. Another approach is called hyperfractionated radiation therapy, in which radiation therapy is given in several small doses per day.

Targeted and tumor-specific therapy. Increasing knowledge of the biology of cancer is leading to the development of biologic and targeted therapies. Multiple new drugs are currently under various stages of development. They offer real hope for targeted tumor-specific approaches for these types of cancer (and head and neck cancer, in general).

As discussed in the Treatment section, cetuximab (a monoclonal antibody directed at the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR) is already approved for use with current radiation therapy approaches. A monoclonal antibody is a type of targeted therapy. It is directed against a specific protein in the cancer cells, in this case EGFR, and it does not affect cells that don’t have that protein. Other EGFR inhibitors under study are erlotinib (Tarceva), gefitinib (Iressa), lapatinib (Tykerb), and panitumumab (Vectibix), often in combination with other treatments.

In addition, another avenue researchers are studying includes antiangiogenesis. This explores how tumors develop their blood supply and how drugs can disrupt that. Drugs under investigation in this area include bevacizumab (Avastin) and sunitinib (Sutent). The hope is that these and other more targeted therapies will offer new treatment options with equal or greater effectiveness and fewer side effects. Learn more about targeted therapy.

Chemoprevention. Researchers are evaluating the benefits of using chemotherapy as a way to prevent second cancers following treatment.

Photodynamic therapy. In photodynamic therapy, a substance that is photosensitive (sensitive to light) is injected into the blood. Cancer cells hold onto the substance longer than normal cells. Then, laser lights are directed at the area of the tumor, and the substance in the cells is activated to destroy the cancer cells.

Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer treatments in order to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now. Please note this link will take you outside of this guide.

To continue reading this guide, choose “Next” (below, right) to see a section about coping with the side effects of laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer or cancer treatment. Or, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen to visit any section.

Last Updated: 
Thursday, March 28, 2013

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