Head and neck cancers are rare and complex conditions requiring the coordinated work of a team of experienced specialists. As a result, the comprehensive approach offered by multidisciplinary care (MDC) has become a key component of high-quality oncologic disease management.1,2

MDC can be provided through onsite multidisciplinary clinics in community or academic settings. In this format, patients see providers from various disciplines during a single visit, meeting with specialists such as surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, nurse navigators and others who have reviewed the patient's case to offer their focused recommendations in real time.3 Multidisciplinary tumor boards (MTBs) represent another format for delivering MDC. Here, team members from various disciplines collectively meet in person. An attending surgeon organizes and leads case presentations, and the multidisciplinary team reviews patient history, pathology and radiology details. The team then discusses the case to determine the optimal treatment regimen.1

Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, many MTBs have evolved to a virtual setting. In addition to reducing the travel burden for patients and physicians, these virtual meetings have demonstrated the ability to easily facilitate communication between physically distant providers and have been shown to increase case presentations. In general, MTBs have been associated with quality oncologic care and have become a widely adopted means of communicating within a multidisciplinary system.1

Broad Support for MDC in the Management of Patients With Head and Neck Cancer

A 2023 study published in OTO Open, the official open-access journal of the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, sought to evaluate providers' perceived value of head and neck cancer virtual MTBs in order to define priorities for future MTB collaborations.1

Led by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and conducted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Institutional Review Board, the study examined over 50 responses, providing the largest survey report of an MTB to date.1 Study lead author Kyle Hatten, MD, Division Chief of Head & Neck Surgery within the Department of Otorhinolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, found providers had noted improved access to clinical trials, access to subspecialists and also reduced time to adjuvant radiation therapy.

"Whether it be through an onsite multidisciplinary clinic or a virtual MTB, multidisciplinary care for patients with head and neck cancer is not only the best way to treat these patients, but we'll find as time goes on, that it is really the only way," Dr. Hatten said. "We're managing complicated pathology and anatomy that simply requires nuanced input from various specialists within the broader oncology team. And it's clear from our findings that oncologists agree."1

The study, which is part of a growing body of literature supporting virtual MTBs, highlights the benefits of MDC, specifically virtual MTBs, from the perspective of those delivering care.1

General findings include1:

  • The collaboration between oncologists and various interprofessional team members inherent in multidisciplinary settings positively impacts patient survival.
  • MTBs ensure adherence to clinical practice guidelines and offer the opportunity for enrollment in clinical trials.
  • Both academic and community physicians view the virtual MTB favorably.

Quantitative findings include1:

  • The vast majority of participants found the virtual MTB useful when discussing complex cases and impactful to future patient care (96%).
  • Community and academic physician responses strongly agreed that the virtual MTB improved communication (82% vs. 73%), provided patient-specific information for cancer care (82% vs. 73%) and improved access to other specialties (66% vs. 64%).
  • Most respondents acknowledged that the virtual MTB has allowed patients to undergo adjuvant care in a shorter time period (64%).

The latter is particularly relevant given that the length of time to adjuvant therapy has been linked to key outcomes. According to study authors, "Efficiency in the transition of care from definitive surgery to adjuvant therapy is associated with improved tumor control and survival."1

Importantly, the results of the University of Maryland study align with other industry research on the value of MDC in the management of head and neck cancer.1-5

Multidisciplinary Care for Head and Neck Cancer Conveniently Located in Baltimore

With the abundance of evidence, it's clear that a multidisciplinary model has a positive effect on care and outcomes for complex conditions such as head and neck cancer. To serve patients in the Baltimore region and beyond, the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) offers a dedicated Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Clinic.

As a part of UMGCCC, one of the country's few National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, the Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Clinic provides excellence in care with access to the cutting-edge research that earned UMGCCC this exclusive designation. Led by Dr. Hatten, the clinic brings together a team of experts, all specializing in head and neck cancer but trained in a range of medical disciplines, including surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, speech-language pathologists and oncology nurse navigators to coordinate the entire care journey.

For patients, this translates into specialized, individualized recommendations and care from a multidisciplinary team, all in a single visit.

Learn more and connect patients with industry-leading multidisciplinary care for head and neck cancer at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) — call 410-328-3197.


  1. Amin NB, Bridgham KM, Brown JP, et al. Regionalization of Head and Neck Oncology Tumor Boards: Perspectives of Collaborating Physicians. OTO Open. 2023;7(1):e18. Published 2023 Feb 28. doi:10.1002/oto2.18
  2. De Felice F, Tombolini V, de Vincentiis M, et al. Multidisciplinary team in head and neck cancer: a management model. Med Oncol. 2018;36(1):2. Published 2018 Nov 13. doi:10.1007/s12032-018-1227-z
  3. Thompson JA, Lubek JE, Amin N, et al. Impact of the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic on Head and Neck Cancer Care. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. 2022
  4. Taberna M, Gil Moncayo F, Jané-Salas E, et at. The Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) Approach and Quality of Care. Front Oncol. 2020;10:85. Published 2020 Mar 20. doi:10.3389/fonc.2020.00085
  5. Hansen CC, Egleston B, Leachman BK, et al. Patterns of Multidisciplinary Care of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Medicare Patients. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020;146(12):1136-1146. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.3496