Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Throat cancer patients with HPV may not need neck surgery

CANCER DIGEST – Sept. 17, 2014 – Patients with neck cancer, who are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), are significantly more likely to have the cancer shrink completely from radiation therapy before neck surgery than those with who had not been infected by the virus.

Researchers reviewed the medical records from 396 patients whose neck (oropharyngeal) cancer had spread to at least one lymph node. Within 180 days after completing radiation therapy, 146 patients underwent neck surgery. For 99 patients, their records indicated whether or not their tumors had likely been triggered by HPV, the same virus associated with both cervical and head and neck cancer.

People who tested positive for HPV (measured by the presence of a protein called p16) were less likely to have a recurrence of their cancers, regardless of whether or not the tumors had completely disappeared following treatment. After they analyzed all other factors they found that the patients' HPV status was the strongest predictor of whether or not they were alive at the end of the study.

The study was led by Thomas J. Galloway, MD, attending physician and director of clinical research at Fox Chase, who presented the findings today at the American Society for Radiation Oncology's 56th Annual Meeting in San Francisco. He concluded that throat cancer patients who are positive for HPV may safely avoid neck surgery following radiation therapy.
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