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HPV infection may be linked to poor head and neck cancer survival rates in African-Americans

PHILADELPHIA A groundbreaking study in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggests that having the human papillomavirus (HPV) improves survival in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Furthermore, African Americans had far less HPV infection than whites, which led to worse survival.

"There is currently no consensus on why blacks fare worse with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck than whites, but this is the first clue that it may be biologic rather than related to issues of access, insurance or provider attitudes," said senior author Kevin Cullen, M.D., director of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center and professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Cullen's research showed that median overall survival was more than threefold higher for whites (70.6 months) than for African Americans (20.9 months) who were treated with chemotherapy and radiation. When the researchers examined patients by HPV status, they found that HPV-negative patients had a median survival of 26.6 months, while the survival rate for HPV-positive patients could not be calculated because most were still alive.

Overall, 4 percent of African American patients and 34 percent of white patients were HPV positive. Cullen said the survival difference was entirely due to HPV status, as survival rates were similar among HPV-negative patients.

Scott Lippman, M.D., chair of the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and editor-in-chief of Cancer Prevention Research called the study "practice changing."

"Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck is one of the fastest growing cancers, and this study gives us a new way to assess prognosis for our patients," said Lippman.


Contact: Jeremy Moore
American Association for Cancer Research

Page: 1

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