01 February 2013
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is endemic in Asia and is etiologically associated with Epstein–Barr virus. Radiotherapy is the primary treatment modality. The role of systemic therapy has become more prominent. Based on multiple phase III studies and meta-analyses, concurrent cisplatin-based chemoradiotherapy is the current standard of care for locally advanced disease (American Joint Committee on Cancer manual [7th edition] stages II–IVb). The reported failure-free survival rates from phase II trials are encouraging for induction + concurrent chemoradiotherapy. Data from ongoing phase III trials comparing induction + concurrent chemoradiotherapy with concurrent chemoradiotherapy will validate the results of these phase II studies. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy techniques are recommended if the resources are available. Locoregional control exceeding 90% and reduced xerostomia-related toxicities can now be achieved using intensity-modulated radiotherapy, although distant control remains the most pressing research problem. The promising results of targeted therapy and Epstein–Barr virus-specific immunotherapy from early clinical trials should be validated in phase III clinical trials. New technology, more effective and less toxic chemotherapy regimens, and targeted therapy offer new opportunities for treating nasopharyngeal carcinoma.