Researchers are interested in improving the diagnosis of salivary gland cancer. They are also trying to improve treatment and looking at ways of dealing with side effects.

Research into treatment

Researchers are looking at different treatments for salivary gland cancer. 

Researchers are looking into new and different combinations of immunotherapy to treat salivary gland cancer with. They want to:

  • see if these new combinations work 
  • see the side effects of these new combinations and drugs
  • look into how well they treat the cancer
  • see if the treatment is safe
  • start looking at treatments that stimulate the body's immune system to fight the cancer

Doctors have been looking at using new and different scans for people with head and neck cancer during treatment, which includes looking at: 

  • whether a combined PET-CT scan might give a better idea than other scans of how well the treatment is working
  • testing new MRI imaging and new ways to analyse the images
  • measuring the growth of blood vessels using a PET-CT scan and a PET- MR scan

Researchers are looking at using a radiosensitising agent alongside a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiation) for head and neck cancers.

The agent is only activated in the areas that are treated with radiotherapy. It increases the effects of radiotherapy in this area. It is not a treatment on its own for cancer. But researchers think that it may help to improve the cancer treatments we already have.

Researchers want to find out why treatment for cancer that has spread, sometimes stops working and the cancer no longer responds to it. They also want to look into how they can predict this is going to happen. 

Reducing side effects of treatment

Treatment for head and neck cancer can sometimes cause side effects that are difficult to cope with. 

Rarely, radiotherapy to the head and neck area can damage the jawbone. This damage is called osteoradionecrosis or ORN. Doctors think that a high pressure oxygen therapy called hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) may be able to stop this happening.

Treatment for ORN is usually surgery to remove the damaged jawbone. In this trial, half the people taking part have HBO before and after surgery to remove the bone. The other half have surgery only.

Difficulty swallowing can be a long term problem for people who have surgery or radiotherapy to treat a head and neck cancer. 

A study is looking into developing a new package to help with difficulty swallowing. It will use x-rays to see how you swallow. Based on the x-ray the speech and language therapist will give you exercises individually designed for you. 

Quality of life

Cancer of the minor salivary glands may be included in some trials looking at cancer of the mouth or oral cavity.

There is a trial looking at the quality of life for people who have this type of cancer.

Find a clinical trial

Our clinical trials database has information about UK clinical trials for salivary gland cancer and summaries of trial results.

Cancer Research UK nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available. Freephone: 0808 800 4040 - Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Last reviewed: 
05 Nov 2019
  • Cancer Research UK clinical trials database
    Accessed November 2019

  • Future perspective: United Kingdom National Multidisciplinary Guidelines

    E King and K Harrington 

    The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 2016. Vol 130, issue S2

  • Advances in Radiotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer

    V Grégoire and others

    Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2015. Vol 33, issue 29 

  • Salivary gland cancer: An update on present and emerging therapies
    J Carlson and others
    ASCO, 2013

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