New treatment strategies for HPV-positive head and neck cancer
Epidemiological studies show an increasing incidence of human papilloma virus-associated oropharyngeal cancer. HPV-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is recognized as a special subgroup of HNSCC. Because HPV-positive patients are often younger and have an outstanding prognosis, long-term toxicities of therapy have become an important issue. Current clinical trials focus on a reduction of treatment-related toxicity and the development of HPV-specific therapies. New treatment strategies include a dose reduction of radiotherapy, the use of cetuximab instead of cisplatin for chemoradiation and transoral robotic surgery (TORS). Increasing comprehension of the molecular background of HPV-associated HNSCC has also lead to more specific treatment attempts including immunotherapeutic strategies. Whereas recently published data shed light on immune mechanisms resulting in a tolerogenic niche for HPV and HPV-associated HNSCC, other studies focus on specific vaccination of HPV-positive HNSCC. This study will summarize current therapy approaches and illustrate ongoing clinical trials in the field of HPV-positive HNSCC.