Childhood Laryngeal Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version
Childhood Laryngeal Cancer
Tumors of the larynx are rare. The most common benign tumor is subglottic hemangioma. Malignant tumors, which are especially rare, may be associated with benign tumors such as polyps and papillomas.[2,3] A review of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program data from 1973 to 2016 identified 23 pediatric patients with laryngeal malignancies. Sixteen of the patients had squamous cell carcinoma; the other identified histologies included small cell carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, myxosarcoma, embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, and synovial sarcoma.
These tumors may present with the following:
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Enlargement of the lymph nodes of the neck.
Treatment of Childhood Laryngeal Cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx in children is managed in the same manner as it is in adults with carcinoma at this site, using surgery and radiation therapy.[4,5] Pediatric patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx have outcomes that are similar to those reported for adult patients. Laser surgery may be the initial treatment used for these lesions. For more information about the treatment of laryngeal cancer in adults, see Laryngeal Cancer Treatment (Adult).
Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation for Childhood Laryngeal Cancer
Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, see the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:
- APEC1621 (NCT03155620) (Pediatric MATCH: Targeted Therapy Directed by Genetic Testing in Treating Pediatric Patients with Relapsed or Refractory Advanced Solid Tumors, Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas, or Histiocytic Disorders): NCI-COG Pediatric Molecular Analysis for Therapeutic Choice (MATCH), referred to as Pediatric MATCH, will match targeted agents with specific molecular changes identified in a patient's tumor (refractory or recurrent). Children and adolescents aged 1 to 21 years are eligible for the trial.
Patients with tumors that have molecular variants addressed by treatment arms included in the trial will be offered treatment on Pediatric MATCH. Additional information can be obtained on the NCI website and ClinicalTrials.gov website.
- Bitar MA, Moukarbel RV, Zalzal GH: Management of congenital subglottic hemangioma: trends and success over the past 17 years. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 132 (2): 226-31, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
- McGuirt WF, Little JP: Laryngeal cancer in children and adolescents. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 30 (2): 207-14, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Bauman NM, Smith RJ: Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Pediatr Clin North Am 43 (6): 1385-401, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Forsyth AM, Camilon PR, Tracy L, et al.: Pediatric laryngeal tumors and demographics, management, and survival in laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 140: 110507, 2021. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Siddiqui F, Sarin R, Agarwal JP, et al.: Squamous carcinoma of the larynx and hypopharynx in children: a distinct clinical entity? Med Pediatr Oncol 40 (5): 322-4, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
Special Considerations for the Treatment of Children With Cancer
Cancer in children and adolescents is rare, although the overall incidence has been slowly increasing since 1975. Referral to medical centers with multidisciplinary teams of cancer specialists experienced in treating cancers that occur in childhood and adolescence should be considered. This multidisciplinary team approach incorporates the skills of the following health care professionals and others to ensure that children receive treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation that will achieve optimal survival and quality of life:
- Primary care physicians.
- Pediatric surgeons.
- Radiation oncologists.
- Pediatric medical oncologists/hematologists.
- Rehabilitation specialists.
- Pediatric nurse specialists.
- Social workers.
- Child-life professionals.
For specific information about supportive care for children and adolescents with cancer, see the summaries on Supportive and Palliative Care.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has outlined guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer. At these pediatric cancer centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children and adolescents, and the opportunity to participate is offered to most patients and their families. Clinical trials for children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer are generally designed to compare potentially better therapy with current standard therapy. Most of the progress made in identifying curative therapy for childhood cancers has been achieved through clinical trials. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer. Between 1975 and 2010, childhood cancer mortality decreased by more than 50%. Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close monitoring because side effects of cancer therapy may persist or develop months or years after treatment. For information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors, see Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer.
Childhood cancer is a rare disease, with about 15,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States in individuals younger than 20 years. The U.S. Rare Diseases Act of 2002 defines a rare disease as one that affects populations smaller than 200,000 people. Therefore, all pediatric cancers are considered rare.
The designation of a rare tumor is not uniform among pediatric and adult groups. In adults, rare cancers are defined as those with an annual incidence of fewer than six cases per 100,000 people. They account for up to 24% of all cancers diagnosed in the European Union and about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States.[5,6] Also, the designation of a pediatric rare tumor is not uniform among international groups, as follows:
- A consensus effort between the European Union Joint Action on Rare Cancers and the European Cooperative Study Group for Rare Pediatric Cancers estimated that 11% of all cancers in patients younger than 20 years could be categorized as very rare. This consensus group defined very rare cancers as those with annual incidences of fewer than 2 cases per 1 million people. However, three additional histologies (thyroid carcinoma, melanoma, and testicular cancer) with incidences of more than 2 cases per 1 million people were also included in the very rare group because there is a lack of knowledge and expertise in the management of these tumors.
- The Children's Oncology Group defines rare pediatric cancers as those listed in the International Classification of Childhood Cancer subgroup XI, which includes thyroid cancer, melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers, and multiple types of carcinomas (e.g., adrenocortical carcinoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and most adult-type carcinomas such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, etc.). These diagnoses account for about 4% of cancers diagnosed in children aged 0 to 14 years, compared with about 20% of cancers diagnosed in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.
Most cancers in subgroup XI are either melanomas or thyroid cancer, with other types accounting for only 1.3% of cancers in children aged 0 to 14 years and 5.3% of cancers in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.
These rare cancers are extremely challenging to study because of the low number of patients with any individual diagnosis, the predominance of rare cancers in the adolescent population, and the lack of clinical trials for adolescents with rare cancers.
Information about these tumors may also be found in sources relevant to adults with cancer, such as Laryngeal Cancer Treatment (Adult).
- Smith MA, Seibel NL, Altekruse SF, et al.: Outcomes for children and adolescents with cancer: challenges for the twenty-first century. J Clin Oncol 28 (15): 2625-34, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Standards for pediatric cancer centers. Pediatrics 134 (2): 410-4, 2014. Also available online. Last accessed June 7, 2022.
- Smith MA, Altekruse SF, Adamson PC, et al.: Declining childhood and adolescent cancer mortality. Cancer 120 (16): 2497-506, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Ward E, DeSantis C, Robbins A, et al.: Childhood and adolescent cancer statistics, 2014. CA Cancer J Clin 64 (2): 83-103, 2014 Mar-Apr. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Gatta G, Capocaccia R, Botta L, et al.: Burden and centralised treatment in Europe of rare tumours: results of RARECAREnet-a population-based study. Lancet Oncol 18 (8): 1022-1039, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
- DeSantis CE, Kramer JL, Jemal A: The burden of rare cancers in the United States. CA Cancer J Clin 67 (4): 261-272, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Ferrari A, Brecht IB, Gatta G, et al.: Defining and listing very rare cancers of paediatric age: consensus of the Joint Action on Rare Cancers in cooperation with the European Cooperative Study Group for Pediatric Rare Tumors. Eur J Cancer 110: 120-126, 2019. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Pappo AS, Krailo M, Chen Z, et al.: Infrequent tumor initiative of the Children's Oncology Group: initial lessons learned and their impact on future plans. J Clin Oncol 28 (33): 5011-6, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al., eds.: SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2012. National Cancer Institute, 2015. Also available online. Last accessed May 25, 2022.
Childhood Laryngeal Papillomatosis
Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis is the most common benign laryngeal tumor in children and is associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, most commonly HPV-6 and HPV-11.[1,2] The presence of HPV-11 appears to correlate with a more aggressive clinical course than does the presence of HPV-6. An Australian survey of pediatric otorhinolaryngologists documented a decline in the incidence of laryngeal papillomatosis after the introduction of HPV vaccinations for adolescent girls and young women aged 12 to 26 years.
These tumors can cause hoarseness because of their association with wart-like nodules on the vocal cords, and they may rarely extend into the lung, producing significant morbidity. Malignant degeneration may occur, with development of cancer in the larynx and squamous cell lung cancer.
A multi-institutional registry study identified children with juvenile-onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis from 23 states between January 2015 and August 2020. Of the 215 children with juvenile-onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, 88.8% were delivered vaginally. Among 190 mothers, the median age at the time of delivery was 22 years. Of 114 mothers (60.0%) who were age-eligible for the HPV vaccination, 16 (14.0%) were vaccinated, 1 (0.9%) of whom was vaccinated before delivery. Of 162 tested biopsy specimens, 157 (96.9%) had detectable HPV. All 157 specimens had a vaccine-preventable HPV type.
Treatment of Childhood Laryngeal Papillomatosis
- A single-institution retrospective analysis evaluated 121 children with respiratory papillomatosis. The age at initial operation was 4.3 years (±2.9 years), and 47.9% of patients (58 of 121) experienced a recurrence and underwent surgical treatment after the age of 14 years.
- At follow-up, 5% of the patients (6 of 121) had died, 41.3% of the patients (50 of 121) had been recurrence free for 5 years or longer (cured group), and 53.7% of the patients (65 of 121) experienced a recurrence in the previous 5 years (recurrent group).
- There were no significant differences in sex, age at initial operation, or adjuvant therapy between the cured and recurrent groups of patients.
- In the recurrent group, there was a higher incidence of overall operation frequency, aggressive disease, tracheal dissemination of papilloma, and HPV infection.
If a patient requires more than four surgical procedures per year, other interventions may be necessary, including the following:
The effectiveness of intralesional cidofovir has not been conclusively demonstrated.
The role of checkpoint inhibitors, such as PD-1 inhibitors, is currently being investigated. Reports with small numbers of patients have documented that in selected cases, the administration of a quadrivalent HPV vaccine can be associated with a complete remission and an increase in the intersurgical interval.[14,15] In contrast, other reports have not documented a therapeutic effect of the quadrivalent HPV vaccine.
In a report of two patients with aggressive recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, treatment with systemic bevacizumab produced good results with minimal toxicity.
Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation for Childhood Laryngeal Papillomatosis
Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, see the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
- Kashima HK, Mounts P, Shah K: Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am 23 (3): 699-706, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Derkay CS, Wiatrak B: Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis: a review. Laryngoscope 118 (7): 1236-47, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Maloney EM, Unger ER, Tucker RA, et al.: Longitudinal measures of human papillomavirus 6 and 11 viral loads and antibody response in children with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 132 (7): 711-5, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Novakovic D, Cheng ATL, Zurynski Y, et al.: A Prospective Study of the Incidence of Juvenile-Onset Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis After Implementation of a National HPV Vaccination Program. J Infect Dis 217 (2): 208-212, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Gélinas JF, Manoukian J, Côté A: Lung involvement in juvenile onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis: a systematic review of the literature. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 72 (4): 433-52, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Amiling R, Meites E, Querec TD, et al.: Juvenile-Onset Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis in the United States, Epidemiology and HPV Types-2015-2020. J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc 10 (7): 774-781, 2021. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Andrus JG, Shapshay SM: Contemporary management of laryngeal papilloma in adults and children. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 39 (1): 135-58, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Xiao Y, Zhang X, Ma L, et al.: Long-term outcomes of juvenile-onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Clin Otolaryngol 46 (1): 161-167, 2021. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Avidano MA, Singleton GT: Adjuvant drug strategies in the treatment of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 112 (2): 197-202, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Derkay CS, Smith RJ, McClay J, et al.: HspE7 treatment of pediatric recurrent respiratory papillomatosis: final results of an open-label trial. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 114 (9): 730-7, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Sidell DR, Nassar M, Cotton RT, et al.: High-dose sublesional bevacizumab (avastin) for pediatric recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 123 (3): 214-21, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Chadha NK, James A: Adjuvant antiviral therapy for recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 12: CD005053, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Ivancic R, Iqbal H, deSilva B, et al.: Current and future management of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol 3 (1): 22-34, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Young DL, Moore MM, Halstead LA: The use of the quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (gardasil) as adjuvant therapy in the treatment of recurrent respiratory papilloma. J Voice 29 (2): 223-9, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Mészner Z, Jankovics I, Nagy A, et al.: Recurrent laryngeal papillomatosis with oesophageal involvement in a 2 year old boy: successful treatment with the quadrivalent human papillomatosis vaccine. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 79 (2): 262-6, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Katsuta T, Miyaji Y, Offit PA, et al.: Treatment With Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus Vaccine for Juvenile-Onset Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis: Case Report and Review of the Literature. J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc 6 (4): 380-385, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Carnevale C, Ferrán-De la Cierva L, Til-Pérez G, et al.: Safe use of systemic bevacizumab for respiratory recurrent papillomatosis in two children. Laryngoscope 129 (4): 1001-1004, 2019. [PUBMED Abstract]
Changes to This Summary (06/08/2022)
The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.
Added text about the results of a single-institution retrospective analysis that evaluated 121 children with respiratory papillomatosis (cited Xiao et al. as reference 8).
This summary is written and maintained by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of NCI. The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or NIH. More information about summary policies and the role of the PDQ Editorial Boards in maintaining the PDQ summaries can be found on the About This PDQ Summary and PDQ® - NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database pages.
About This PDQ Summary
Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of childhood laryngeal cancer and papillomatosis. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians in the care of their patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.
Reviewers and Updates
This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Board members review recently published articles each month to determine whether an article should:
- be discussed at a meeting,
- be cited with text, or
- replace or update an existing article that is already cited.
Changes to the summaries are made through a consensus process in which Board members evaluate the strength of the evidence in the published articles and determine how the article should be included in the summary.
The lead reviewers for Childhood Laryngeal Tumors Treatment are:
- Denise Adams, MD (Children's Hospital Boston)
- Karen J. Marcus, MD, FACR (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children's Hospital)
- Paul A. Meyers, MD (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center)
- Thomas A. Olson, MD (Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta - Egleston Campus)
- Alberto S. Pappo, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)
- Arthur Kim Ritchey, MD (Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC)
- Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)
- Stephen J. Shochat, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)
Any comments or questions about the summary content should be submitted to Cancer.gov through the NCI website's Email Us. Do not contact the individual Board Members with questions or comments about the summaries. Board members will not respond to individual inquiries.
Levels of Evidence
Some of the reference citations in this summary are accompanied by a level-of-evidence designation. These designations are intended to help readers assess the strength of the evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. The PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board uses a formal evidence ranking system in developing its level-of-evidence designations.
Permission to Use This Summary
PDQ is a registered trademark. Although the content of PDQ documents can be used freely as text, it cannot be identified as an NCI PDQ cancer information summary unless it is presented in its entirety and is regularly updated. However, an author would be permitted to write a sentence such as “NCI’s PDQ cancer information summary about breast cancer prevention states the risks succinctly: [include excerpt from the summary].”
The preferred citation for this PDQ summary is:
PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Laryngeal Tumors Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/hp/child/laryngeal-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.
Images in this summary are used with permission of the author(s), artist, and/or publisher for use within the PDQ summaries only. Permission to use images outside the context of PDQ information must be obtained from the owner(s) and cannot be granted by the National Cancer Institute. Information about using the illustrations in this summary, along with many other cancer-related images, is available in Visuals Online, a collection of over 2,000 scientific images.
Based on the strength of the available evidence, treatment options may be described as either “standard” or “under clinical evaluation.” These classifications should not be used as a basis for insurance reimbursement determinations. More information on insurance coverage is available on Cancer.gov on the Managing Cancer Care page.
More information about contacting us or receiving help with the Cancer.gov website can be found on our Contact Us for Help page. Questions can also be submitted to Cancer.gov through the website’s Email Us.