The strategy of induction chemotherapy prior to planned definitive local therapy for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma has been studied for over 30 years, and appears to have a role in select clinical situations. Here we review landmark studies regarding induction chemotherapy, both in the pre-taxane era and in the current taxane era, and we address some of the unresolved questions regarding the role of induction chemotherapy in head and neck cancer. J. Surg. Oncol. 2010; 101:292–298. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.