General information

Malignant tumors of the head and neck are among the six most common cancer types worldwide and are newly diagnosed in more than 15,500 patients per year alone in Germany. More than 90% of all cases are so-called head and neck squamous-cell carcinoma (HNSCC). In approximately over half of all patients, the tumor is diagnosed for the first time in already advanced stages (III and IV).

Nowadays, as long as the tumor is restricted to the head and neck area, it is possible to achieve a permanent cure in approximately 30-40% of all cases, even in advanced stages, by means of modern multimodal treatment methods, such as surgery, and/or radiation, or chemotherapy. If the tumor has already spread into other areas of the body, a complete cure cannot be achieved anymore. In these specific cases, a chemotherapy and/or antibody therapy may help to inhibit tumor growth for as long as possible (palliative chemotherapy/immunotherapy).

Besides squamous-cell carcinoma, another group of malignant head and neck tumors exists, which develop from transformed cells of the salivary glands. Overall, these tumors seldom occur but they are biologically very diverse, which makes the definition of an optimal individualized treatment concept especially crucial. In Heidelberg, specific study protocols have been developed for the most common malignant tumor of the salivary glands (adenoid cystic carcinoma, a form of adenocarcinoma) in order to also offer patients with these rare head and neck tumors modern treatment concepts (for example, with heavy ions) within controlled clinical trials.