ANN ARBOR, Mich. Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found a series of markers that indicate which patients are more likely to survive cancers of the base of the tongue and tonsils.
Most notably, they found that cancers linked to HPV, or human papillomavirus, are the most responsive to current chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while tumors that express high levels of a certain growth factor receptor are the least responsive and most deadly.
The researchers call these and other markers a promising step in the direction of tailored, individualized treatment for a type of cancer that can have dramatic impact on essential abilities such as swallowing and speaking.
Results of the study appear in two papers published May 12 online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The papers will be published in the journals 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, says Thomas Carey, Ph.D., Professor and Distinguished Research Scientist at the U-Ms Kresge Hearing Research Institute and co-director of the head and neck oncology program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. Carey was the senior author on both papers.
Cancers of the tonsils and the base of the tongue have increased in recent years, in what Carey calls an epidemic of HPV-induced head and neck cancer. This has occurred at the same time that declines in smoking rates have led to a decrease in the incidence of other types of head and neck cancers. HPV is the virus that can cause cervical cancer and is the target of a new vaccine.
The biggest challenge is how
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University of Michigan Health System