Upper Aerodigestive Tract

Lung cancer and cancers of the head and neck are part of the Upper Aero Digestive Tract DOT, including cancers of the thorax (lung cancer, mesothelioma, thymoma) and cancers that develop in the oral cavity, oropharynx, nasopharynx, salivary glands, hypopharynx, larynx, and thyroid.

Together, UADT disease-oriented team (UADT DOT) members do research to better understand how to prevent and treat these cancers. The UADT DOT has these broad goals:

  • Develop new treatments for lung cancer and head and neck cancers
  • Describe genetic risk factors for these cancers
  • Develop animal models of these cancers
  • Prevent lung, head, and neck cancers
  • Improve the quality of life for survivors of these cancers

A Sample of Current Projects

  • Developing new targeted therapies for small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is highly aggressive, with a two-year survival rate of about 5 percent. SCLC is very sensitive to chemotherapy, but rapidly develops resistance to chemotherapy drugs. No targeted therapies are approved for SCLC. UADT DOT researchers test new treatments in a chemo-sensitive mouse model of SCLC developed at Huntsman Cancer Institute. These preclinical studies will be critical to creating new strategies for SCLC treatment.
  • Investigating levels of thyroid cancer risk. Incidence rates of well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma (WDTC) in the United States and other developed nations continue to rise at an alarming pace, while mortality rates for WDTC remain stable. These trends have been attributed to overdiagnosis, leading to concerns about possible overtreatment. Potential proposed solutions call for less treatment for patients with low-risk WDTC. The challenge is to define what constitutes “low risk.” Members of the UADT DOT will use a population-based thyroid cancer cohort to develop a risk prediction model for estimating death due to WDTC. 
  • Identifying new head and neck cancer susceptibility genes. Each year in the United States, about 62,000 patients are diagnosed with head and neck cancers (HNC) that arise in the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx. Very few head and neck cancer susceptibility genes have been identified. In this project, UADT DOT members use newly developed mutation screening technologies with patients who have personal and family histories of head and neck cancer, with the goal of identify new head and neck cancer genes.


Wallace Akerley
Wallace L. Akerley, MD
Professor of Medicine
Cancer Center Bio
Mia Hashibe
Mia Hashibe, PhD
Associate Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine
Cancer Center Bio
Marcus Monroe
Marcus M. Monroe, MD
Assistant Professor of Surgery
Cancer Center Bio