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Harvard Medical School Department of Otolaryngology

Head and Neck

head and neck banner

Research activities in the area of the head and the neck include a variety of investigations primarily focused on the advancement of treatment for head and neck cancers, including cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, salivary glands and thyroid and parathyroid glands.

As busy clinicians in the Divisions of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology and Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery, researchers in this area cover a diverse range of clinical research activities. Select clinical research projects include:

  • Voice outcomes after laryngeal cancer surgery
  • Prevention of microvascular thrombosis
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy for melanoma and high-risk cutaneous malignancy in the head and neck region
  • Unique behaviors of head and neck cutaneous malignancies
  • Use of supraclavicular flap reconstruction for head and neck defects
  • Anterior skull base surgery outcomes
  • Preservation of voice in thyroid cancer management
  • Use of intraoperative nerve monitoring in thyroid and parathyroid surgery

Our investigators are similarly committed to connecting basic science advances with effective treatment. Select basic science and translational research projects include:

  • Studies of the relationship between infection with human papillomavirus and the incidence of tumors of the oropharynx
  • Therapeutic targets in head and neck cancer
  • Mechanism-based biomarkers in oropharyngeal tumors
  • Regulation of p16 expression in tumor suppression and senescence

Rocco Laboratory

Dr. James Rocco manages a tumor bank for head and neck cancers and a research laboratory working to improve treatment of head and neck cancers, especially tumors of the oropharynx, which are occurring more due to human papillomavirus (HPV). While these tumors often respond to combined chemotherapy and radiation, about 2,000 people in the United States die of them every year, and those who are cured can suffer severe long-term consequences of treatment. Through basic science and translational research, the Rocco Lab hopes to identify ways to predict outcome before treatment to better personalize therapy for these patients.