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HPV Tied to Better Tongue, Tonsil Cancer Outcomes
Date:5/14/2008

Patients more likely to survive using chemoradiation, and new treatments may follow

WEDNESDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- Tonsil and tongue cancers linked to human papillomavirus (HPV) are most responsive to current chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while those that express high levels of a growth factor called EGFR are the least responsive and most deadly, a new study concludes.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers identified a series of markers that identify which patients are most likely to survive these types of cancers. The findings are a promising step toward the development of individualized treatments for tonsil and tongue cancers, according to the authors of two papers published online May 12 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and expected to be in the July 1 print issue.

"The chemotherapy and radiation therapy we use to treat this type of cancer is very aggressive. If we can identify those patients most likely to respond, we could reduce the intensity of the therapy for those likely to have the best outcomes. At the same time, we hope to identify new treatments that specifically target those tumors that we know are not responding to current therapies," Thomas Carey, co-director of the head and neck oncology program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a prepared statement. He was the senior author on both papers.

The researchers gave an initial course of chemotherapy to 66 people with advanced oropharyngeal cancer, which includes cancer of the tonsils and the base of the tongue. Patients (54) who responded to this initial treatment then received a full course of simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation. Patients (11) who didn't respond to the initial chemotherapy were referred for surgery.

Of the 54 patients who responded to the initial chemotherapy, 62 percent are alive today without evidence of cancer, and 73 percent fully preserved their organs
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