Benjamin L. Judson, MD
Amid the increasing variety of treatments available for patients with head and neck cancer, surgical oncologists are also exploring more minimally invasive approaches to lower associated adverse events and, overall, improve patient outcomes.
State of the Science Summit on Head and Neck Cancers, Judson, an associate professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine, highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary team and shares insight on some of the advancements related to surgery for patients with head and neck cancer.
OncLive: Can you please discuss the case study you were involved in?
: We presented a few cases of head and neck cancer. Our panel consisted of a surgeon, a radiation oncologist, and a medical oncologist. Just as we would when we take care of patients, we discussed the patients in a multidisciplinary fashion. We covered some of the issues by discussing them from different perspectives.
What are the benefits of having a multidisciplinary team?
Head and neck cancer is one of those diseases where the treatments are multidisciplinary. For some patients, the most beneficial treatment might involve surgery, whereas for others it does not. Similarly, some patients are going to benefit from radiation or chemotherapy instead of surgery. Having each of those perspectives present while discussing a case is important in terms of coming up with a treatment that will be beneficial for an individual.
How do you determine if a patient should receive surgery over other forms of treatment?
In many cases, the evidence makes it straightforward as to what the best treatment option is, whether it be surgery followed by radiation or whether it’s radiation therapy only. There are always specific factors for each patient that might make receiving 1 form of treatment more difficult or riskier than others.
Some patients might not be able to get radiation because of a disease that they have or because of prior treatments, when radiation would normally be the standard of treatment for that patient. Similarly, with chemotherapy, some are unable to receive it because of a medical condition that they have. In terms of surgery, some might not be healthy enough to undergo surgery, which makes it important to discuss the specifics of individual cases.
What are some of the most prominent recent advancements that have been made?
In head and neck cancers, there are a few major changes that are happening. Even in my short 15 years, there has been this rise of human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers. It’s distinct from the disease that we have taken care of before.
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