HPV predicts survival in tonsil and tongue cancers

When the human papillomavirus (HPV) is found in cancer tumors of the tonsil and base of the tongue, patients are more likely to survive following treatment, according to a study in the British Journal of Cancer (October 19, 2010).

Researchers from the University of Sydney followed 198 patients with advanced oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) for an average of two years after they had had surgery or radiotherapy for the disease.

The researchers found that patients with HPV-positive cancer were four times less likely to die than patients whose cancers weren't caused by the HPV infection. The cancer was also three times less likely to recur at the primary site in patients with HPV-positive cancers.

"Our study, which focused on a group of patients with advanced oropharyngeal cancer, found that those with cancer caused by HPV had a significantly better chance of survival than cancer which was not caused by HPV," said Angela Hong, Ph.D., lead author of the study, in a press release.

This effect was seen regardless of the type of treatment the patients had, she noted.

"HPV status is now the strongest predictor of whether a patient will survive oropharyngeal cancer or whether the disease will return," said Hong, adding that various clinical trials are now in development to tailor treatment according to HPV status of tumors.

This study suggests that people with HPV in tumors of tonsil and base of tongue cancers respond better to treatment, added Lesley Walker, director of information at Cancer Research UK.

"It's possible that, in the future, patients with HPV-positive cancers may be able to have less intensive forms of treatment which would reduce the side effects of therapy," he said.

Copyright © 2010 DrBicuspid.com

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