Advances in systemic treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a unique disease endemic in Asia. It is etiologically linked to the Epstein-Barr virus and is both radio- and chemo-sensitive. While radiotherapy (RT) remains the primary treatment modality with high cure rates for early stage disease, systemic treatment forms an important integral component in the treatment of NPC, both in the non-metastatic as well as palliative setting. Presently, standard therapy in locally advanced NPC comprises conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy administered concurrently during RT. The role of induction chemotherapy and adjuvant chemotherapy remain to be well-defined. Further research strategies in non-metastatic disease will require better identification of patients with high risk disease, and determining the optimal sequence and combination of chemotherapeutic regimens. In metastatic disease, whilst chemotherapy remains the mainstay of care, resistance inevitably develops. Development of molecularly targeted therapies has not yielded much success to date, and further research has been focused on development of EBV-targeted strategies such as vaccination or administration of cytotoxic T-cells directed towards EBV, as well as evaluation of immune checkpoint inhibition approaches.