Head & Neck Cancer Program

Head and Neck Cancer Program

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be more than 65,000 new cases of head and neck cancer in 2020 and that 14,500 Americans will die of the disease this year. Worldwide, there are over 550,000 new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed and 300,000 deaths each year. It is estimated that approximately $3.6 billion is spent in the United States alone each year on treatment for head and neck cancers.

Yet, despite great progress in the understanding of the mutational landscape and molecular mechanism underlying head and neck cancer, survival of patients has not markedly improved over the past several decades. This is mostly because of our inability to diagnose the disease early and control its progression, and because of our poor understanding of the regional and distant spread of this disease. Half of head and neck cancers are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread to nearby tissues, at which stage the 5-year survival rate ranging between 40% – 60%. Due to high recurrence rates, patients with locally advanced disease tend to have a poor prognosis. Despite the improvements to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments, patients with metastatic or recurrent head and neck cancer still only have a median survival of 6-10 months. Thus, there is an urgent need to support basic, translational and clinical research in head and neck cancer in order to find effective and lasting treatments for this malignancy.

The Head and Neck Cancer Program is a focused multidisciplinary collaborative effort to bring basic science researchers from diverse disciplines together with translational investigators and clinicians to decipher the mechanisms underlying the etiology and pathogenesis of head and neck cancer with a goal to prevent, treat and cure this malignancy. The Head and Neck Cancer Program brings together scientists conducting fundamental research with clinician researchers advancing new forms of treatment and public health professionals. Members also include bioengineers working on mathematical modeling of disease pathways and the design of new diagnostics and devices, including applications of nanotechnologies to cancer care. In addition, our Community Advisory Board, made up of patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates, aims to promote the engagement of this community with researchers and healthcare providers in order to accelerate the development of new therapies and techniques for patient care. This multidisciplinary approach will facilitate the translation of research findings into improved outcomes for head and neck cancer patients.

Our mission: to elucidate the mechanisms of head and neck cancer development and progression and to expedite translation of research findings toward diagnosis, prevention, treatment and cure of head and neck cancer. Our multidisciplinary effort will align research on head and neck cancer with societal needs. For more information about the Head and Neck Cancer Program please contact HNCP@bu.edu.


World Head & Neck Cancer Day

July 27, 2020



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