Research into laryngeal cancer

Researchers around the world are looking at better ways to treat laryngeal cancer and manage treatment side effects.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for laryngeal cancer in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

Research and clinical trials

All cancer treatments have to be fully researched before they can be used for everyone. This is so we can be sure that:

  • they work
  • they work better than the treatments already available 
  • they are known to be safe


Planning radiotherapy

A study in 2018 looked at combining PET Open a glossary item and MRI Open a glossary item scans to help plan radiotherapy. It was for people with head and neck cancer. And for people with squamous cell carcinoma Open a glossary item of their mouth or throat.

The researchers found that PET-MRI scans could be useful to help plan radiotherapy.  And that they could be done in 30 minutes or less. Most people found it ok to have a scan while they had their radiotherapy mask on.

Pembrolizumab and lenvatinib

Targeted cancer drugs Open a glossary item work by ‘targeting’ those differences that help a cancer cell to survive and grow. Immunotherapy Open a glossary item uses our immune system to fight cancer. It works by helping the immune system recognise and attack cancer cells.

A trial is looking at whether having lenvatinib with pembrolizumab works better than pembrolizumab on its own as a treatment for head and neck cancer. It includes people with cancer of the voice box (laryngeal cancer).

Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy. Doctors use pembrolizumab to treat cancer including some head and neck cancers. 

Lenvatinib is a targeted drug  called a cancer growth blocker Open a glossary item. It works by blocking signals that tell cancer cells to grow. Doctors use lenvatinib to treat some cancers but not head and neck cancers.  

Researchers think that pembrolizumab with lenvatinib might work well to treat head and neck cancers. To find this out half the people in the trial have pembrolizumab and lenvatinib. And the other half have pembrolizumab and a dummy drug (placebo Open a glossary item). 

The aims of this trial are to find out:

  • how safe it is to have pembrolizumab and lenvatinib
  • how well this combination works
  • how it affects quality of life Open a glossary item 

Monalizumab for head and neck cancer that has spread or come back (INTERLINK 1 trial)

A trial is looking at adding monalizumab to cetuximab. This is for people who have squamous cell cancer of the head and neck.

The trial is open to people whose cancer has come back or spread to another part of the body. It includes people with laryngeal cancer.

Monalizumab is a type of immunotherapy.

Cetuximab is a standard treatment  for some types of head and neck cancer that has spread or come back. It is a type of targeted drug  called a monoclonal antibody Open a glossary item.

Researchers think that cetuximab and monalizumab together might work well to treat head and neck cancer. They aren’t sure so want to find out more. 

In this trial some people have monalizumab and cetuximab. And some have cetuximab and a dummy drug (placebo ).

The main aims of this trial are to find out:

  • how safe it is to have monalizumab and cetuximab
  • how well this combination works
  • how treatment affects quality of life 

Pembrolizumab before surgery and with radiotherapy (KEYNOTE 689 trial)

A trial is looking to find out whether pembrolizumab helps people with head and neck cancer. It is for people with stage 3 or stage 4a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the voice box (larynx).

Treatment for head and neck cancer, is usually surgery. After surgery, you might have radiotherapy alone or with chemotherapy (chemoradiotherapy). This is to kill any cancer cells that might have been left behind. And lower the risk of the cancer coming back. 

 But sometimes head and neck cancer comes back after surgery and radiotherapy. This is recurrent disease. 

 Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is a type of immunotherapy.  

 Everyone taking part in this trial has one of the following combinations of treatment:

  • pembrolizumab followed by surgery. After the operation, you have radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy with pembrolizumab 
  • surgery followed by radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy

Side effects of treatment

Treatment for laryngeal cancer causes side effects that can be difficult to live with.

Predicting long term side effects of radiotherapy (Hamlet-RT trial)

Researchers are looking at developing a computer tool. The tool will help them to predict what long term side effects people might have after radiotherapy. Like all cancer treatments, radiotherapy can have long term side effects. And these can affect your quality of life.

Doctors can’t say what your risk is of getting these long term side effects. By knowing what the risks are doctors can better prepare you for any long term side effects you might have.

People who are having radiotherapy and who take part in the study will be asked to fill in a questionnaire about their side effects.    

The aim of this study is to gain information about the long term side effects of radiotherapy. And to use this to develop a computer tool that can predict an individual’s risk of getting them.

Living with laryngeal cancer

Measuring Patient Satisfaction With Facial Appearance

An international study is looking at developing a questionnaire to measure quality of life. The study is for people:

  • who has had head and neck surgery
  • whose appearance of their face has been affected

The study can help doctors to plan the best treatment for patients undergoing surgery and reconstruction for head and neck cancer in the future.

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