Doctors are working to learn more about head and neck cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. 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.
New medications. Many studies are underway investigating new types of cancer medications to treat head and neck cancers.
Combined therapies. Most research for head and neck cancers focuses on combining different types of treatments to improve the effectiveness and the patient’s quality of life.
Radiofrequency thermal ablation (RFA). Used on a localized tumor that cannot be removed by surgery, RFA is a minimally invasive treatment option that applies heat to the tumor.
Gene therapy. Gene therapy is a targeted form of treatment that uses biologic gene manipulation to change bits of genetic code in a person’s cells. Although gene therapy is relatively new, it appears to show promising potential for treating head and neck cancer.
Photodynamic therapy. In photodynamic therapy, a light-sensitive substance is injected into the tumor that stays longer in cancer cells than in normal cells. A laser is directed at the tumor, which destroys the cancer cells. The long-term effects of photodynamic therapy are still being investigated.
Proton therapy . Proton radiation therapy can be used as a boost (part of treatment) to reduce normal tissue toxicity. It can be used as part of the treatment for some skull-base tumors—including nasopharynx; chordoma, a rare tumor that usually occurs in the spine and base of the skull; and chondrosarcoma, a cartilage-based tumor—to further limit the radiation dose to normal structures, such as the optic (eye) nerves and brainstem.
HPV . Research continues regarding the link between HPV and head and neck cancers, evaluating both why this virus raises the risk for the disease and why it may affect treatment results in some cases. Investigation is also underway about whether the HPV vaccine , currently used to prevent cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers is effective in preventing some head and neck cancers, as well.
Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current head and neck 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 .
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