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HPV-Positive Head and Neck Cancers Fare Better

Patients survive longer, more responsive to treatment than those with HPV-negative tumors

TUESDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Head and neck cancer patients whose tumors test positive for human papillomavirus (HPV) tend to survive longer and respond better to treatment than those who test negative, a new study says.

HPV, a common virus with strains believed to be responsible for most cervical cancers, has recently been linked to the development of some head and neck cancers, particularly those of the upper throat, or oropharynx.

Researchers followed 96 patients in the late stages of cancer of the oropharynx or larynx (voice box), according to a study published online Feb. 12 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. All the patients were enrolled in the same clinical trial and received the same treatment.

Patients with HPV-positive tumors had higher response rates after chemoradiation therapy, compared with patients with HPV-negative tumors (84 percent vs. 57 percent). The two-year overall survival rates of those with HPV-positive tumors were also higher (95 percent vs. 62 percent).

"Our data suggest that the risks and benefits of therapies should be considered separately for HPV-positive and -negative patients," the authors wrote.

More information

To learn more about head and neck cancers, visit the National Cancer Institute.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, Feb. 12, 2008

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