In this article, we focus on the current and emerging treatments in nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). A detailed evolution of the current standard of care, and new techniques and treatment options will be reviewed. Intergroup 0099 established the role for chemoradiotherapy (chemo-RT) in the treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Multiple randomized Phase III trials have shown the benefit of chemo-RT; however, none of these studies utilized modern radiotherapy (RT) techniques of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). IMRT has the ability to deliver high doses of radiation to the target structures while sparing adjacent bystander healthy tissues, and has now become the preferred RT treatment modality. Chemotherapy also has had a shifting paradigm of induction and/or adjuvant chemotherapy combined with RT alone, to the investigation with concurrent chemo-RT. New treatment options including targeted monoclonal antibodies and small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors are being studied in NPC. These new biologic therapies have promising in vitro activity for NPC, and emerging clinical studies are beginning to define their role. RT continues to expand its capabilities, and since IMRT and particle therapy, specifically intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT), has reports of impressive dosimetric efficacy in-silica. Adaptive RT is attempting to reduce toxicity while maintaining treatment efficacy, and the clinical results are still in their youth. Lastly, Epstein– Barr virus (EBV) DNA has recently been studied for prediction of tumor response and its use as a biomarker is increasingly promising to aid in early detection as well as supplementing the current staging system. RT with or without chemotherapy remains the standard of care for nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Advances in RT technique, timing of chemotherapy, biologically targeted agents, particle therapy, adaptive RT, and the incorporation of EBV DNA as a biomarker may aid in the current and future treatment of nasopharyngeal cancer.
Keywords: nasopharyngeal cancer, radiation, chemotherapy, cancer