The latest edition of the clinical practice guideline on larynx preservation strategies for the treatment of laryngeal cancer from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) emphasizes that larynx preservation in patients with early stage disease does not compromise survival compared with total laryngectomy.

“The nuances of treatment selection, assessments of pretreatment voice and swallowing, and public awareness of new organ-preservation treatment and decision making have increased to the point that careful and individualized discussion with patients and families with the multidisciplinary treatment team is a critical element of modern care,” wrote Arlene A. Forastiere, MD, of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, and her colleagues. The report was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Changes since the last guideline on the subject, issued in 2006, include evidence-based support for the use of endoscopic resection in patients with limited stage (T1 and T2) disease, and as an initial total laryngectomy therapy both in patients with stage T4a disease, and in those with severe laryngeal dysfunction prior to treatment.

Also new since the last guideline are recommendations for the use of positron-emission tomography imaging for evaluating the status of regional nodes after treatment, as well as guidance on the best techniques for evaluating voice and swallowing function.

While the initial recommendation that all patients with T1 and T2 laryngeal cancer should be treated with the intent to preserve the larynx has not changed, there is a new recommendation (1.3) stating that surgery may be more effective than radiotherapy for initial larynx preservation therapy, although this recommendation is based on retrospective data and may be affected by patient selection factors, the authors acknowledged. The new recommendation also notes that in an experienced operator’s hands, endoscopic resections can have outcomes that are equal to or better than those with open partial laryngectomy.

The initial recommendation stating that “[e]very effort should be made to avoid combining surgery with radiation therapy because functional outcomes may be compromised by combined-modality therapy; single-modality treatment is effective for limited-stage, invasive cancer of the larynx” remains unchanged.

There is also an updated recommendation that tumor-free margins should be the goal when surgery with larynx preservation intent is performed (1.4).

“Surgery that anticipates the need for postoperative [radiation therapy] to treat close or involved tumor margins or widespread dysplasia is not an acceptable treatment approach,” the guideline authors noted.

There are two other new recommendations including the opinion, based on evidence of benefits vs. harms, that total laryngectomy rather than larynx preservation may be associated with better survival and quality of life in patients with extensive T3 lesions, large T4 lesions, or in those who have poor pretreatment laryngeal function.

The third new recommendation is that “[a]s part of a comprehensive pretreatment evaluation, all patients should undergo a baseline assessment of voice and swallowing function, voice (use and requirements), and counseling with regard to the potential effect of treatment options on voice, swallowing, and quality of life.”

Among the updated recommendations are the following:

• An emphasis on the importance of considering a multiplicity of factors when choosing therapy for patients with limited-stage disease (1.7).

• The option of specialized organ-preservation procedures for a small number of patients with T3 or T4 primary site disease (2.4).

• A strong recommendation for the use of concurrent chemoradiotherapy compared with radiotherapy alone or sequential therapy (2.5).

• Elective neck dissection is not required for patients with clinically involved regional cervical nodes treated with definitive radiotherapy of chemoradiotherapy who have complete clinical, radiologic, and metabolic imaging (3.3).

• “Selection of therapy for an individual patient requires assessment by the multidisciplinary team as well as consideration of voice and swallowing function; patient comorbidity, psychosocial situation, and preferences; and local therapeutic expertise” (4.2).

The guideline development process was supported by ASCO. Dr, Forastiere disclosed employment and stock ownership in NantHealth. Many of her coauthors disclosed institutional funding, consultation/advising, travel support and expenses, honoraria, and or patents/royalties with multiple entities.


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