Toxicity reduction in the treatment of HPV positive oropharyngeal cancer: emerging combined modality approaches

Hesham Mehanna, Sarah Deschuymer, Sandra Nuyts

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)


Human papillomavirus positive (HPV+) oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPC) is a distinct clinical entity within the head and neck cancers, with a unique epidemiology and, in general, a favorable prognosis. Because of this favorable prognosis, researchers have considered de-intensifying the current standard treatment of HPV+ OPC in order to reduce acute and late treatment related toxicity without compromising outcome. Current ongoing trials can be divided in three main categories: de-intensification of the chemotherapy by replacing concomitant platinum-based chemotherapy with the EGFR-inhibitor cetuximab, or de-intensification of the radiation dose of either the primary radiotherapy of selected, good-responding patients after induction chemotherapy or of the adjuvant radiotherapy based on pathology features after primary surgery. Despite the good prognosis of the majority of HPV+ OPC patients, a proportion of them still have poor prognosis. This unmet need has led clinical research on new treatment strategies focused on influencing the unique micro-environment of HPV+ OPC with for example immunotherapy. This article summarizes the current understanding regarding the optimal treatment of non-metastatic HPV+ OPC. Ongoing and published clinical trials regarding de-intensification strategies, immunotherapy and proton therapy are described focusing on the rationale and underlying evidence of these emerging treatment strategies. Nevertheless, until the results of the ongoing trials are known, the treatment of HPV+ OPC in clinical practice should remain identical to the treatment of HPV negative OPC.
Original languageEnglish
Article number439
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2018


  • head and neck cancer
  • oropharyngeal cancer
  • human papillomavirus
  • HPV
  • de-intensification trials


Dive into the research topics of 'Toxicity reduction in the treatment of HPV positive oropharyngeal cancer: emerging combined modality approaches'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this