© 2016 Future Medicine Ltd. Integration and optimization of active systemic agents and radiosensitizers into the therapeutic regimen for head and neck cancer remains a topic of active investigation. Recent trials have not consistently supported the use of induction chemotherapy. There are several clinical scenarios in which there is a strong rationale for induction chemotherapy, such as larynx preservation, unfavorable sites and bulky locally advanced disease. The increasing prevalence of HPV-positive malignancies, impacts both interpretation of clinical research and the design of future trials. In the broad spectrum of this disease the prognosis is often dismal, with substantial room for improvement over current therapy. In the face of conflicting clinical data, we address the question of whether there remains a role for induction chemotherapy.