Head and Neck Surgery

The Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery has an integrative research program designed to address the needs of the head and neck cancer patient now and for years to come. This effort utilizes a team approach and involves scientists from a variety of disciplines including otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, radiation oncology, hematology-oncology, immunology, and molecular medicine. The program is divided into three key components:

  1. basic science,
  2. translational research, and
  3. organ preservation

The goals of this program are to enhance the quality of life and improve the possibility for cure while maintaining the dignity and respect that each of our patients so readily deserves.

Basic sciences

Developing innovative therapy for the future

The basic science component of head and neck research is located in the Guggenheim Building. This initiative is aimed at the identification of a novel group of proteins, termed co-stimulatory molecules, which play an important role in the body’s immune response to cancer. The function of these co-stimulatory molecules is defined using molecular medicine techniques. These molecules are then tested in a variety of animal tumor models as a means to define their potential utility for the treatment of human head and neck cancers.

Translational research

Bringing the laboratory to the clinic

The translational component is founded on a treatment strategy termed adoptive immunotherapy, where the body’s own antitumor immune response is harnessed, and used for specific cancer therapy. Specifically, tumor reactive white blood cells, termed leukocytes, are removed from an individual cancer patient, stimulated in the laboratory to enhance their therapeutic efficacy, and given back to the patient to treat established disease. In this way, we hope to offer a prolonged survival and even cure for patients suffering from advanced head and neck cancer.

Organ preservation approach

Attempting to better serve our patient’s needs

Quality of life considerations are one of the most important elements in defining a treatment plan for each cancer patient. Our group has developed a non-surgical approach for the treatment of advanced cancer, which offers the potential for improved speech, swallowing and cosmesis. This treatment strategy employs the concomitant use of intra-arterial chemotherapy and radiation therapy, with surgery reserved for treatment failures. An important component of this trial is quality of life analysis, to determine if this treatment is better serving our patients needs, and laboratory analysis to identify patients likely to respond to this form of therapy. While this trial is not suited for everyone, it offers many patients a treatment alternative.