Mayo Clinic physicians and scientists are dedicated to research that leads to more and better treatments for people with head and neck cancers.
Restoring maxillofacial bone after tumor or trauma can be challenging. The Department of Otorhinolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery is working with colleagues in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery to use stem cells in conjunction with a printed 3D scaffold to grow bone to restore defects in the face and jaw.
Head and Neck Regenerative Medicine Laboratory
The Head and Neck Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at Mayo Clinic in Arizona is a translational lab that utilizes all components of regenerative medicine — scaffold creation, stem cell differentiation and acellular therapeutics — to pioneer processes and products for the regeneration of head and neck structures. Efforts from the lab have recently resulted in the first in-human 3D-molded laryngeal implant. Building off of this success, experts are initiating a Food and Drug Administration-approved human clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of the tissue-engineered laryngeal implants. Additionally, lab researchers have established the world's first Larynx and Trachea Transplantation Program. Using this unique translational ability, the lab is developing similar technologies for the full spectrum of head and neck sites.
In recent years, 3D printing has become more affordable and highly detailed. Mayo Clinic ear, nose and throat doctors have collaborated with radiologists to generate 3D renderings of potential head and neck tumors, as well as cutting guides and anatomic models. These efforts have elevated the level of surgical care provided to patients while decreasing operative time. The impact of these innovations on operative time, patient outcome and surgical parameters is being evaluated.
Treatment de-escalation for HPV-related oropharynx cancers
HPV-related oropharynx cancer is one of the most rapidly growing cancer types in the United States. Standard treatments often have high cure rates but also have known short-term and long-term side effects. At Mayo Clinic, researchers are focused on developing new treatment techniques that maintain a high cure rate while reducing treatment-related side effects, such as dry mouth and swallowing problems. Several clinical trials are available, and your physician can discuss these with you if you qualify.
Proton beam therapy
Proton beam therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses high-energy protons rather than X-rays to treat cancers. The physical properties of protons can allow for more-precise treatments using proton beam therapy compared with X-rays under certain circumstances. Find out more about proton beam therapy.
Proton beam therapy can be particularly useful for certain head and neck cancers. The head and neck contain many structures sensitive to radiation dose, such as the eyes, brain, brainstem, swallowing muscles, spit glands, voice box and spinal cord. Many of these sensitive structures lie close to areas that may require radiation therapy. Depending on the clinical situation, proton beam therapy may be quite helpful in reducing treatment side effects while preserving the chances for cure. For some head and neck cancers, proton beam therapy may be the best option.
Your radiation oncologist will speak to you about proton beam therapy if this is a good option for your specific cancer. Multiple clinical trials investigating the use of proton beam therapy also may be available.
Aesthetic parotid surgery
It's common for Mayo Clinic surgeons to reconstruct the parotid bed after parotid surgery in order to restore normal facial contour and preserve the facial nerve. Researchers are currently using facial tracking software to better understand how these techniques impact facial appearance after surgery with the goal of having a completely normal facial appearance after removal of salivary glands (parotidectomy) when possible.