Monday, February 16, 2015

New research shows some throat cancers are treatable after spreading

Diagram of the oral cavity and oropharynx – diagram
courtesy of CDC
CANCER DIGEST – Feb. 16, 2015 – A certain type of throat cancer that has spread to other organs remains treatable according to a study by researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University of Toronto, Canada. Patients with metastatic throat cancer often undergo treatment aimed at symptom control only as opposed to disease control because it is often considered incurable.

Led by Dr. Sophie Huang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology, the researchers analyzed outcomes of 934 patients with oropharyngeal cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV positive) out of 1238 patients treated between 2000 and 2011.

They found that in 15 percent these patients cancer spread or metastasized to other organs – 88 in the HPV positive patients and 54 of the HPV negative patients. In addition they identified two types of metastasis, one they called “explosive,” in which more than 10 lesions appeared within a distant organ within three months of the first lesion. 

The other type, they called indolent or slow metastasis that spread much slower in what is called an oligometastasis, and occurred in about a quarter of both HPV positive and HPV negative patients.

When these patients with oligometastasis were treated with high-dose radiation or surgery aimed at disease control, as opposed to symptom control, they survived disease-free much longer. In the HPV positive group with oligometases 25 percent were still alive after three years, compared to 15 percent of HPV negative patients with oligometases.

This researchers presented their findings at the 5th International Conference on Innovative Approaches in Head and Neck Oncology (ICHNO) Feb. 13. They concluded that metastatic HPV positive oropharyngeal cancer patients who receive active treatment can survive considerably longer than those who do not receive treatment. 

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