Current aspects of targeted therapy in head and neck tumors

  • Andreas Dietz
  • Andreas Boehm
  • Christian Mozet
  • Gunnar Wichmann
  • Athanassios Giannis
Review Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00405-008-0697-6

Cite this article as:
Dietz, A., Boehm, A., Mozet, C. et al. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol (2008) 265(Suppl 1): 3. doi:10.1007/s00405-008-0697-6


This review focuses on the current and upcoming options of targeted therapy (biologicals) in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) with special regard to conceptual integration in future strategies. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is the most prominent candidate for therapeutic targeting because of its more than 90% expression rate in HNSCC and influence on the regulation of proliferation, apoptosis, metastasis, angiogenesis and cell differentiation. The point of view of head and neck surgeons is mainly adjusted to reach a balance between targeted, minimal ablative surgery and the evidence-based demand of oncologic accurate surgery with clear margins and, if needed, adjuvant or primary systemic chemoradiation. Therefore, the long-term effects of chemoradiation regimens, such as dysphagia, aspiration and laryngeal immobility caused by fibrosis, are just beginning to be studied and are becoming one of the major problems in the ongoing treatment of HNSCC. In this context, molecular targeting biologicals with a different toxicity profile and hopefully less late damage to functionally important tissues may open new strategies in primary and adjuvant treatment of HNSCC. Besides cetuximab and other EGFR targeting mAbs, this review focuses on receptor and non-receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which further might play a role in the future treatment of HNSCC. To complete the current picture, the problem of multi drug resistance in cancer progenitor cells, targeting members of several relevant pathways and novel agents like pemetrexed and enzastaurin, are discussed in a broader sense of targeted therapy.


Targeted therapy Tyrosine kinase inhibitors Cetuximab EGFR targeting Head and neck tumors 



Stem cell factor (SCF) receptor




Multidrug resistance 1


Multidrug resistance-associated protein 1


Multidrug resistance-associated protein 2


Nuclear factor-κB


Platelet-derived growth factor receptor






Tyrosine kinase inhibitor


Vascular epithelial growth factor


Vascular epithelial growth factor receptor


Wingless inhibitory factor-1


Wingless ligand

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Dietz
    • 1
    • 3
  • Andreas Boehm
    • 1
  • Christian Mozet
    • 1
  • Gunnar Wichmann
    • 1
  • Athanassios Giannis
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck SurgeryUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Organic ChemistryUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Klinik und Poliklinik für Hals-, Nasen-, Ohrenheilkunde/Plastische OperationenUniversität LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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