Oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma treatment: Current standards and future directions

Shanthi Marur, Barbara Burtness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: To discuss the changing landscape and significant developments in the diagnosis and management of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. RECENT FINDINGS: High-risk human papilloma viruses (HPVs) have been recognized as important causative factors for oropharyngeal cancer. The diagnosis is established with type-specific and broad-spectrum in-situ hybridization probes and/or p16 immunohistochemistry assays on fresh frozen paraffin-embedded tissue blocks. HPV-associated tumors have superior response and outcomes compared with HPV-unrelated tumors. Retrospective studies have been able to stratify oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma based on HPV status, tumor stage, nodal stage, and smoking history into risk groups with differing risks of death or distant disease. Selected patients, nonsmokers with less advanced nodal stage, may be overtreated with current treatment paradigms, and deintensification of curative therapy is a current research focus for these patients. Smokers, patients with advanced nodal or tumor stage, and those with HPV-unrelated cancers have a less favorable prognosis and the search for novel targets is particularly important for these patients. SUMMARY: The present review will highlight the current standards and the future direction of novel therapies in both HPV-associated and HPV-unrelated cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-258
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • chemoradiation
  • de-escalation
  • human papilloma virus
  • novel targets in head and neck squamous cell cancer
  • oropharynx cancer
  • smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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