Multidisciplinary approaches in the management of advanced head and neck tumors: State of the art

Michael K. Gibson, Arlene A. Forastiere

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: Head and neck cancer remains a significant cause of morbidity worldwide, with approximately 400,000 new cases per year. Ongoing advances in multidisciplinary management of this complex and multivaried disease process are resulting in improved function, quality of life, and survival. This review presents selected advances in primary research in head and neck cancer during the year 2003. Recent findings: Successful management of head and neck cancer now requires a cooperative approach among a broad group of medical disciplines that includes head and neck surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology, medical imaging, clinical pathology and lab medicine, social work, nutrition, and others. Translation of continued advances in these fields by cooperative work will continue to yield incremental advances in diagnosis, staging, treatment, follow-up, supportive care, and quality of life. Accordingly, this review aims to include facets of each individual field. Diagnosis and staging continue to evolve with the inclusion of nuclear medicine and in vivo molecular imaging based on the technology of positron emission tomography and single photon emission computed tomographic scanning. Multimodality approaches remain the forefront of intervention for patients with advanced disease. Facets that continue to be defined and studied include the best treatment order of the three disciplines of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy; the refinement of radiation by altering fraction dose, sequence, and time course; radiosensitization by chemo- and biologic therapy; and the addition of novel, biologically targeted agents to these disciplines. Following from the side effects of these intensive treatments to a functionally critical part of the body are ongoing advances in supportive care and quality of life. Summary: Head and neck cancer represents a collection of diseases that, although seemingly united by location and histology, on closer inspection represent a diverse collection of subcategories that often differ in pathogenesis, tumor biology, sublocation within the head and neck region, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and effect on quality of life. Given this complexity, it is not surprising that clinical management is also complicated and requires a cooperative effort among multiple subspecialties. This review of the current standard of care for patients with head and neck cancer aims to assist this diverse group of practitioners in caring for this complex group of patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-224
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent opinion in oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2004


  • Head and neck
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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