Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers and how to treat them. Use the menu to see other pages.

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

  • Radiation therapy approaches. Researchers are evaluating more effective ways of using radiation therapy. A promising approach called 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. It gives radiation therapy in several small doses per day. Researchers are also studying proton therapy, which uses protons rather than x-rays to treat cancer.

  • Targeted and tumor-specific therapy. More and more knowledge of the biology of cancer is leading to the development of targeted therapies (see Types of Treatment), in addition to immunotherapy (see below). Many new drugs are in various stages of development.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. Nivolumab and pembrolizumab have been approved to treat this disease (see Types of Treatment), and other types of immunotherapy drugs are being studied in clinical trials.

  • Chemoprevention. Researchers are evaluating the benefits of using chemoprevention as a way to prevent the development of a second cancer after treatment for laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer has finished. Chemoprevention is the use of drugs or supplements to lower the risk of cancer.

  • Photodynamic therapy. During photodynamic therapy, a substance that is sensitive to light, called photosensitive, is injected into the blood. Cancer cells hold onto the substance longer than healthy cells. Then, lasers are directed at the area of the tumor, and the substance in the cells is activated to destroy the cancer cells.

  • Palliative care/supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer treatments to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like more information about the latest areas of research in laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases.

  • Listen to a podcast from an ASCO expert discussing highlights from the 2022 and 2020 ASCO Annual Meetings.

  • Review other research announced at recent scientific meetings about head and neck cancer on the Cancer.Net Blog.

  • Visit the website of Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, to find out how to help support cancer research. Please note that this link takes you to a different ASCO website.

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.