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Ann Oncol. 2005;16 Suppl 6:vi13-vi19.

Promising new advances in head and neck radiotherapy.

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  • 1Department of Human Oncology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53792, USA.


Efforts to improve the efficacy of treatment for SCCHN have led to the use of multimodality approaches with combinations of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Conventional head and neck radiotherapy, a standard approach for locoregionally advanced disease, is associated with a variety of well-known acute and long-term toxicities. These chronic toxicities (i.e. xerostomia, dysphagia, fibrosis) can impact negatively on patient quality of life. Altered radiation fractionation regimens that incorporate acceleration and/or hyperfractionation can improve locoregional control but also increase acute toxicities for head and neck cancer patients. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) has emerged as a promising method for delivering effective radiation dose to head and neck tumour targets while reducing exposure of surrounding healthy tissue. Another method for improving head and neck cancer outcome with conventional radiotherapy is with the concurrent addition of chemotherapy. Indeed, chemoradiotherapy is now a standard treatment approach for locoregionally advanced disease. Molecular targeted agents, such as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antagonist, cetuximab (Erbitux), have recently been shown to enhance the effects of radiotherapy, and reports to date suggest that this potentiation occurs without an increase in the characteristic toxicities associated with head and neck radiation.

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