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Low prevalence of HPV infection may be tied to poor prognosis for blacks with head and neck cancer
Date:7/29/2009

Researchers at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer have found that head and neck cancer patients who test positive for the human papillomavirus (HPV) have much better survival rates than patients who don't have the virus, according to a new study in the journal Cancer Prevention Research. The researchers also discovered that blacks in the study had a very low rate of HPV infection, and consequently worse survival, which may explain why African-American patients traditionally have had a poor prognosis for head and neck cancer.

"For the first time, we have evidence that the major difference in survival between black and white patients with head and neck cancer appears to be the rate of HPV infection. We found an astounding difference in prognosis between patients who are HPV-positive and those who are HPV-negative," says the study's senior author, Kevin J. 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.

Scott Lippman, M.D., chairman of the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 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," says Dr. Lippman, who is editor-in-chief of Cancer Prevention Research, which is published by the American Association for Cancer Research.

Dr. Cullen adds, "We need to analyze HPV routinely in specific patients with head and neck cancer, which we're currently not doing. HPV-positive cancer is biologically a very different disease than HPV-negative cancer, and we need to take that into account as we're planning future therapies. Those with HPV-negative disease may not be as well served with our current treatments combining chemotherapy and rad
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Contact: Karen Warmkessel
kwarmkessel@umm.edu
410-328-8919
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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