Since the 1970s, advances in therapies and surgical approaches to treating head and neck cancers have improved patients' survival and quality of life enormously. In the 2000s, the introduction of the first molecularly targeted drug brought additional hope for patients with certain advanced head and neck cancers. The ability to identify and effectively target more of the genetic drivers of head and neck cancers remains an urgent challenge for researchers.
Recent years have seen an increase in the number of head and neck cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Research shows that HPV-driven tumors typically respond better to treatment, and the availability of an effective HPV vaccine offers the hope of eventually reducing the number of people affected by head and neck cancers worldwide.