Treatment approaches to nasopharyngeal carcinoma: a review


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Abstract

Early-stage nasopharyngeal carcinoma (T1–2a;N0;M0) represents a small proportion of nasopharyngeal tumors. Radiotherapy alone is the current treatment approach for this tumor and the emerging role of new radiotherapy techniques will hopefully further improve the treatment outcome for these patients. The vast majority of patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma is diagnosed with locally advanced disease. Concomitant chemoradiotherapy is now acknowledged as being a standard treatment option, even though it induces a considerable incidence of acute mucosal and hematologic toxicity. The issue of adding adjuvant chemotherapy is somewhat more controversial. Similarly, the role of neoadjuvant chemotherapy before concomitant chemoradiotherapy is a matter of interest. In patients with recurrent/metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma the prognosis is generally grim, as platinum-based chemotherapy results in a 50–70% response rate and in a median survival time of 11 months. Several trials have been performed on this subset of patients with both cytotoxic and biologic agents, but the results have not been particularly encouraging thus far. Epstein–Barr virus is associated with the vast majority of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Concentrations of plasma Epstein–Barr virus DNA have been associated with treatment outcome in the clinic. Immunotherapy is generally well tolerated and can sometimes elicit significant immune response, which possibly induces clinical benefit in some patients.

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