Oral Cancer News

Products and recommendations for cancer patients with dry mouth

Source: www.dentistryiq.com
Author: Nicole Giesey, RDH, MSPTE

The big “C” word—it is so prevalent. Don’t eat this . . . it’s linked to cancer. Don’t use this device . . . it’s linked to cancer. Don’t drink water at this time of day . . . it’s linked to cancer. The geographical area you live in . . . is linked to cancer! A 42-year-old man whom I know recently passed away of lung cancer; he never smoked, has no family history of lung cancer, and no radon in his house. He just got sick, fought a brave battle, and passed away. He is only one of hundreds of people I personally know that have been told they have cancer—I am only one person!

Cancer is certainly a game changer. Everything, and I mean everything, is seen through a different set of eyes. How does this impact us as hygienists? It will change the way you treat the patients significantly. It will make you think outside of the box when it comes to getting the right tools for your patients to protect not only their teeth but their overall health.

Nourishment during treatment is crucial. If patients’ oral health declines due to cancer treatment, we need to be the ammunition they need to win the war in their mouth. We need to arm them with good options that will not only alleviate their pain, but help prevent a possible caries or periodontal disaster. Increasing their prophy appointments to four times a year to help their oral hygiene measures and apply fluoride varnish helps to keep an eye on any new problems. Of course, attain medical clearance if they are immunocompromised.

Helpful products
Other than keeping an eye on hygiene measures, one major focus with cancer patients is dry mouth. Dry mouth is so hard to combat. We are fortunate to be living in a time where medical advancements and products are so much better than what our previous generation had. There are some products and tricks up our sleeves that may help.

XyliMelts (OraCoat) are slow release to help alleviate dry mouth for an extended period of time. This company also a product for those patients whose condition has progressed to oral mucositis called H-B12 melts. Another key is to make sure your patients are staying away from sodium lauryl sulfate, a mucus membrane irritant. Biotène (GlaxoSmithKline) is one product that does not contain SLS and fights caries. GSK is a leading company that has a line of products focusing on dry mouth and cavity protection. Biotène moisturizing spray could be used on the palate to provide immediate relief of dry mouth. The spray is especially good for patients to keep on their nightstand to use when they wake in the middle of the night. GSK will provide the office with samples of various products for the office to test and also patient coupons.

Patients should also use the softest toothbrush available. Maxill, a dental products company based in Ohio, has four softness levels in their toothbrush offerings. Their “Silken Soft” bristle option has a split-ended tuft that allows for very thorough brushing without pain. Your patients can find these toothbrushes online from maxill and your office can order them direct to have in office to give to your patients when recommending an extra soft brush. Maxill also has a oral care swab for patients who need to moisten their tissues in between brushing. Keeping a supply of appropriate products in the office is essential. You don’t want to give your patient a brush that may cause pain, which would in turn make the patient shy away from brushing altogether.

I always recommend a personal bag or something special for your patients to connect with them and make them feel as if they are not “a number.” I have said in other articles that making a care bag for certain patients (e.g., ortho patients, pregnant patients, and now cancer patients) would really put you on a different level than other providers. In this case, a cancer patient would really benefit from your tips. Consider including sugar-free lemon candies (e.g., Lemon Heads), a soft toothbrush, floss, individualized interdental products, dry mouth spray, XyliMelts, an oral swab, any literature on cancer and caries or dry mouth, and above all, a handwritten card with the office’s signatures.

Let your patients know you are there for them and send them these packs if they cannot make it to the office. If you know of anyone who has cancer, the smallest yet greatest gift is encouragement and knowing they are not alone. Cancer does not care about age, religion, sex or race. We can all fall victim. As always, I encourage you to use your profession and catapult knowledge and compassion to your patients. Let’s keep them smiling.

Author’s note: This article is dedicated to my uncle Jerry, who is currently undergoing radiation and chemotherapy for pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.

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November, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Mount Sinai raises surgical robotics game

Source: medcitynews.com
Author: Josh Baxt

Robotic surgery isn’t a panacea, but it has the distinct advantage of going places human hands don’t necessarily fit. That was part of the motivation behind New York-based Mount Sinai Health System’s recent announcement establishing the Mount Sinai Robotics Institute (MSRI) to educate surgeons, advance research and improve outcomes.

Mount Sinai was an early adopter of the Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci robot, which has become an important tool for urologic, gynecologic and head and neck surgeries. This approach can be particularly helpful for patients with throat tumors, which are often difficult to reach.

“The challenge has always been access,” said surgeon Eric Genden, who chairs the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery and co-chairs MSRI with urologic surgeon Ash Tewari, in a phone interview. “These tumors typically exist in the back of the throat. How do you get back there? The standard approach has been making a cut through the jaw, a procedure that can take anything from 12 to 14 hours.”

The side effects of traditional surgery can be horrendous as well. Patients can spend two weeks in the hospital and have trouble swallowing or speaking. Sometimes the large incision causes facial disfigurement. Robotic surgery can offer a more humane option.

“Robotics allows us to work through the mouth to access the tumor,” said Genden. “Instead of being a 14-hour procedure, it’s usually only two hours. There are no incisions on the face, so cosmetically, it works quite well.”

This potential to reduce side effects associated with cancer surgery carries over to urologic cancers as well. The robot’s precision can help surgeons avoid nerves associated with erectile and urinary function.

Though it’s unclear whether robotic surgery can improve cancer outcomes, its ability to reduce patient suffering helped drive the institute’s creation. Head and neck surgeons at Mount Sinai are particularly motivated by recent increases in throat cancer, many caused by HPV.

“You have guys who are 46 and have these tumors,” Genden said. “If you give them high-dose radiation, they’re going to sustain a significant hit. Robotics decreases the impact of the surgery, but it also decreases the toxicity of therapy.”

MSRI will be focused on research, developing new technologies that enhance robotic surgeries. Surgeons often have difficulty determining how much tissue to remove – where does the tumor stop? Mount Sinai is one of several institutions working on optical probes that can differentiate cancer from healthy tissue. There are also startups in the space like Lumicell that have developed optical probes to detect cancer at the margins for breast cancer patients.

New devices like these often emerge from collaboration among biologists, engineers, and physicians. Mount Sinai surgeons have been collaborating with scientists and engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to make that happen. Genden and Tewari believe the best way to accelerate progress is to get everyone in the same room.

“Usually scientists and physicians don’t talk, so the scientists don’t understand what they should be focused on,” Genden said. “This crosstalk helps scientists and engineers understand the clinical problems: how to control bleeding; how to use optical imaging to define where tumors start and stop; how to intraoperatively monitor tumor location.”

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November, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

HPV and mouth cancer

Source: www.hippocraticpost.com
Author: Thea Jourdan

hpv

Mouth cancer kills nearly 2000 people in the UK each year. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) of which there are over 100 different types, is more commonly associated with cervical cancer and genital warts, but it can also cause oral cancer, particularly of the back of the tongue and tonsils. The virus incorporates itself into the cell’s DNA and causes the cell to multiply out of control, leading to cancer.

In Britain, the number of mouth and throat cancers have increased by 40 per cent in just a decade, to 6,200 cases a year. According to Cancer Research UK, the HPV virus, which is transmitted to the mouth region from the genitals during oral sex, may be key to the ‘rapid rise’. Statistics also show that the more sexual partners you have the greater your chance of acquiring mouth cancer.

“There is now scientific evidence that a proportion of mouth and throat cancers are linked to HPV infection,” says Hazel Nunn, head of health information at Cancer Research UK. “We know that HPV is found in the mouth but we do not yet know how it gets there – whether through oral sex or otherwise. HPV virus has been found on the fingers and elsewhere on the body. It is possible that oral sex is having an impact but more research needs to be done into the kinds of behaviour that leads to this infection.”

“HPV has been causing mouth cancer for decades but the link is only now becoming clear. HPV is a hardy virus that likes sitting in lymphoid tissue wherever it is in the body,” explains Professor Mark McGurk, a senior consultant ENT surgeon based at London Bridge Hospital in London. That means it thrives in the lymphoid tissue in the mouth, including that of the tonsils and at the base of the tongue. For the same reason, it settles in the cervix, the vulva and around the anus.

For many people, HPV won’t cause any problems at all. “In fact, we know that 80 per cent of women and men will have the HPV infection at some time in their lives and clear it themselves without any symptoms,” explains Mr Mike Bowen, a consultant obstetrician and gynacologist based at St John and St Elizabeth Hospital in London. “But for a few it can cause cellular changes that lead to cancer.”

Professor McGurk says that over the last 30 years, he has seen a rise in oropharyngeal cancer, which typically affects sexually active men in their 50s and 60s. “They may have been infected with the virus for some time and ,” he explains. The cancer reveals itself as growths on the tonsils and back of the tongue.

Many patients are only diagnosed at the late stage of their disease. Michael Douglas, the actor, already had stage 4 cancer when his cancer was recognized. Fortunately, oral cancer caused by HPV is very treatable, even when it is very advanced, using radiotherapy. “We used to do surgery on these cases, but we don’t need to anymore. In many cases, the cancer simply melts away with radiotherapy,” explains Professor McGurk. Patients with stage 1 and 2 Oral cancer caused by HPV have an 85 per cent chance of surviving for 5 years after treatment, and patients with stage 4 disease have a 60 per cent chance of surviving five years – impressive compared to the survival rates for other types of oral cancer where overall survival is 50 per cent over 5 years. [Cancer Research UK]

Cancer research UK is pushing for all mouth tumors to be tested to see if they are HPV positive, to assist with effective treatment of patients. “At the moment, it varies massively depending on what hospital you are in. We think it should be standard,” says Hazel Nunn.

Professor McGurk believes there is a simple explanation why men are more likely to have HPV in their mouths than women. “Women harbor the virus in their genitalia which provides a hospitable environment while the male penile area is a relatively hostile area for the virus to settle.”

One way to try and turn the tide would be to introduce a HPV vaccination for boys and girls before they become sexually active. Girls from the age of 12 in the UK have been offered vaccinations since 2008 against the two most common strains of HPV -16 and 18- which are linked to cervical cancer.

Boys are not offered the vaccine, but this should change, according to Professor Margaret Stanley, a virologist based at Cambridge University who believes that boys must be given the vaccine for HPV too from the age of 12 or 13.

‘Obviously cervical cancer is the big one but the other cancers – cancers of the anus and increasingly the tonsil and tongue – there is no screening for them and no way of detecting them until they are proper cancers and they are more common in men than in women.’

Hazel Nunn of Cancer Research UK points out that there is no evidence that vaccinating boys will help protect them from oral cancer. “It is theoretically possible but there have been no trials that had this as an end point. There is a danger that we get too far ahead of ourselves without evidence-based medicine.”

She insists that although HPV is a worrying factor, by far the most significant risks associated with mouth and throat cancers of all types are smoking and alcohol. “

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November, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Tobacco is OUT! A third of all Major League Baseball stadiums to be free of tobacco

Source: www.dailyastorian.com
Author: American Heart Association News

With the end of this baseball season, so ended the long intertwined history of tobacco and baseball at more than one-third of all Major League stadiums.

The unhealthy coupling started unraveling when it became evident that chewing tobacco resulted in deadly consequences for some players, such as legendary San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn who died of mouth cancer in 2014.

Just months after Gwynn’s death, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling announced he was being treated for oral cancer.

Although Major League Baseball and the players’ union could not agree to take action, several cities have. Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco all have passed laws prohibiting tobacco use of any kind at sports venues. A statewide law in California will take effect before the 2017 season begins.

This week, the Washington, D.C. City Council gave final approval to a measure that would end the use of all tobacco products – including smokeless tobacco like chew, dip and snuff – at all organized sporting events within the city, including Nationals Park.

Councilmember Yvette Alexander said the move is needed to help protect children, who often look to sports professionals as role models, from taking up the habit. The measure will now be sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser to sign into law.

Additionally, on Oct. 20, St. Petersburg, Florida, City Council Vice Chair Darden Rice introduced a proposal to ban smokeless tobacco products from the city’s athletic venues. The proposal includes Tropicana Stadium, the home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Rice said she hopes the proposal would clear before the start of the 2017 season.

Legislation is also currently under consideration in Toronto and the state of Minnesota.

“Our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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November, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

We Now Know Exactly How Many DNA Mutations Smoking Causes

Every 50 cigarettes you smoke gives you one extra DNA mutation per lung cell.

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Source: The Verge
Author: James Vincent

A common tactic for people trying to give up smoking is to quantify exactly how much damage — financial or physical — each cigarette or pack of cigarette does. How much does smoking cost you per month, for example, or how much shorter is your life going to be for each drag you take? Well, a new study into the dangers of smoking now lets us measure this damage right down to the number of mutations in your DNA.

A research team led by scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory compared tissue samples from 1,063 non-smokers and 2,490 smokers, examining each individual’s DNA to look for mutations. They found that for every 50 cigarettes smoked, there is one extra DNA mutation for each cell in the lungs. Over the course of a year, this means that someone who smokes a pack a day (20 cigarettes) has 150 extra mutations per cell in the lung, 97 per larynx cell, 23 per mouth cell, 18 per bladder cell, and six per liver cell.

These changes to the cells aren’t dangerous in themselves, but each one has the potential to turn into a cancerous growth. “Smoking is like playing Russian roulette: the more you play, the higher the chance the mutations will hit the right genes and you will develop cancer,” Ludmil Alexandrov, the co-lead author of the study, told the New Scientist. “However, there will always be people who smoke a lot but the mutations do not hit the right genes.”

The reason for all these extra mutations is found in tobacco smoke — a substance that contains some 7,000 different chemicals, over 70 of which are known to cause cancer. How exactly different types of cell mutations lead to cancer is less clear, and the team from Los Alamos are hoping next to drill down further into this line of research and find out the probabilities that any individual DNA mutation will turn into cancer.

The good news for smokers, though, is that it’s never too late to quit. Although smoking causes regular DNA mutations, as soon as people give up cigarettes, the mutations stop too. One UK study from 2004 found that those who quit smoking at age 30 nearly eliminate the risk of dying prematurely, while those who quit at 50 halve it. For people trying to give up, those are certainly some more comforting odds.

 

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

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November, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Smokeless Tobacco Use and the Risk of Head and Neck Cancer: Pooled Analysis of US Studies in the INHANCE Consortium.

Source: www.pubmed.gov
Author: Wyss AB, Gillison ML, Olshan AF

Abstract

Previous studies on smokeless tobacco use and head and neck cancer (HNC) have found inconsistent and often imprecise estimates, with limited control for cigarette smoking. Using pooled data from 11 US case-control studies (1981-2006) of oral, pharyngeal, and laryngeal cancers (6,772 cases and 8,375 controls) in the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology (INHANCE) Consortium, we applied hierarchical logistic regression to estimate odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for ever use, frequency of use, and duration of use of snuff and chewing tobacco separately for never and ever cigarette smokers. Ever use (versus never use) of snuff was strongly associated with HNC among never cigarette smokers (odds ratio (OR) = 1.71, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.08, 2.70), particularly for oral cavity cancers (OR = 3.01, 95% CI: 1.63, 5.55). Although ever (versus never) tobacco chewing was weakly associated with HNC among never cigarette smokers (OR = 1.20, 95% CI: 0.81, 1.77), analyses restricted to cancers of the oral cavity showed a stronger association (OR = 1.81, 95% CI: 1.04, 3.17). Few or no associations between each type of smokeless tobacco and HNC were observed among ever cigarette smokers, possibly reflecting residual confounding by smoking. Smokeless tobacco use appears to be associated with HNC, especially oral cancers, with snuff being more strongly associated than chewing tobacco.

© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. All rights reserved.

*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.  

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October, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

America’s Most Popular ‘Legal’ Drug is Responsible for 25% of ALL Cancer

Source: www.thefreethoughtproject.com
Author: John Vibes

There are many factors contributing to the massive rise in cancer cases in the US, but according to a new study from the American Cancer Society, cigarette smoke is by far the leading cause. The study found that roughly 25% of all cancer deaths could be attributed to cigarette smoking.

Although cigarette smoking has waned somewhat in recent years, nearly 40 million adults in the U.S. currently smoke cigarettes. The CDC says cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., responsible for more than 480,000 deaths annually.

According to the study:

We estimate that at least 167133 cancer deaths in the United States in 2014 (28.6% of all cancer deaths; 95% CI, 28.2%-28.8%) were attributable to cigarette smoking. Among men, the proportion of cancer deaths attributable to smoking ranged from a low of 21.8% in Utah (95% CI, 19.9%-23.5%) to a high of 39.5% in Arkansas (95% CI, 36.9%-41.7%), but was at least 30% in every state except Utah. Among women, the proportion ranged from 11.1% in Utah (95% CI, 9.6%-12.3%) to 29.0% in Kentucky (95% CI, 27.2%-30.7%) and was at least 20% in all states except Utah, California, and Hawaii. Nine of the top 10 ranked states for men and 6 of the top 10 ranked states for women were located in the South. In men, smoking explained nearly 40% of cancer deaths in the top 5 ranked states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky). In women, smoking explained more than 26% of all cancer deaths in the top 5 ranked states, which included 3 Southern states (Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee), and 2 Western states (Alaska and Nevada).

Smoking is one of the leading causes of illness and death in the world. The use of tobacco has become more widespread than ever and the substance itself is far more dangerous than it has ever been before.

Today, cigarettes are mass produced and treated with thousands of additives and chemicals. Carcinogenic, poisonous chemicals and toxic metals can all be found in modern tobacco products. These chemicals are present for many reasons ranging from taste and preservation to being purposely addictive. There are over 4000 of these chemicals in cigarettes and all of them are not revealed to the public. They are protected under law as “trade secrets” — meaning they can add anything they want in there without our knowledge.

The financial advantage alone should be enough of an argument to quit smoking. In most states, cigarettes are now over 6 dollars a pack, more than half of which is taxes. So people are literally paying the government and rich multinational corporations an average of 10 dollars every day, for a product that destroys their bodies. It is true that there are addictive chemicals in cigarettes but their strength and power has been blown way out of proportion.

The psychological addiction is always much stronger than the physical addiction even with harsh narcotics like heroin and especially with nicotine. All you have to do is stop and get through a few days without it. Soon enough the smell and taste will no longer be desirable to you and you will be happy to have that extra 6 dollars a pack in your pocket. It will be easier to breathe, you won’t get sick as often and you will overall be in better spirits. Quitting cigarettes is one decision that you can make that will drastically improve your life in a number of ways and it will give the elite less control of your money and your health.

*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

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October, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

GlaxoSmithKline pulls Cervarix from U.S. market

Source: www.managedcaremag.com
Author: staff

In response to “a very low market demand,” GlaxoSmithKline has decided to stop selling its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Cervarix in the United States, according to FiercePharma. The move gives Merck’s Gardasil unchallenged dominance of the HPV vaccine market in this country.

Last year, Cervarix earned only about $3.7 million in the U.S. out of a $107 million worldwide total. In contrast, the global total for Merck’s Gardasil franchise was $1.9 billion.

Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year placed HPV vaccination rates at 42% of girls and 28% of boys ages 13 to 17 years––far short of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ goal of 80% for both boys and girls by 2020.

To combat the public’s lukewarm response, the CDC and other cancer organizations are urging health care providers to promote the cancer-prevention benefits of HPV vaccines rather than stressing that they protect against sexually transmitted infections, which puts off some parents who worry the vaccine will promote promiscuity or who feel that their preteens are too young to need the shots, according to the Wall Street Journal.

HPV, which is transmitted sexually, can cause at least six types of cancer as well as genital warts. The vaccine is recommended for boy and girls at age 11 or 12 and is also given at other ages.

Experts are urging pediatricians to present the vaccine as routine, rather than different from other preteen shots. They are also stressing completion of the vaccine series by age 13.

Merck, the maker of Gardasil, is currently airing an ad on national television that puts the onus on parents to get their children vaccinated.

Sources: FiercePharma; October 21, 2016; and Wall Street Journal; October 17, 2016.

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October, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Can your own immune system kill cancer?

Source: www.cnn.com
Author: Jacqueline Howard

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-9-38-07-am

There was another big win in the advancement of immunotherapy treatments for cancer this week.

The Food and Drug Administration approved an immunotherapy drug called Keytruda, which stimulates the body’s immune system, for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer.

In other words, the drug could be the very first treatment a patient receives for the disease, instead of chemotherapy. Keytruda is the only immunotherapy drug approved for first-line treatment for these patients.

So it seems, the future of cancer care may be in our own immune systems, but how exactly does it work, and what are its pros and cons?

“It’s certainly going to become an independent way of treating cancers,” said Dr. Philip Greenberg, head of immunology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, during a Q&A session at the International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference in New York in September.

“We always talk about the three pillars of cancer therapy — radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery — and it’s become quite clear now that there’s going to be a fourth pillar, which is immunotherapy,” he said. “There are times where it will be used alone, and there will be times that it will be used in conjunction with the other therapies, but there’s very little to question that this is going to be a major part of the way cancers are treated from now on, going forward.”

Here’s a look at the past, present and future of cancer immunotherapy.

It began with Bessie

In the summer of 1890, 17-year-old Elizabeth Dashiell, affectionately called “Bessie,” caught her hand between two seats on a passenger train and later noticed a painful lump in the area that got caught, according to the Cancer Research Institute.

She met with a 28-year-old physician named Dr. William Coley in New York to address the injury. He performed a biopsy, expecting to find pus in the lump, probably from an infection. But what he found was more disturbing: a small gray mass on the bone. It was a malignant tumor from a type of cancer called sarcoma.

Dashiell had her arm amputated to treat the cancer, but the disease quickly spread to the rest of her body. She died in January 1891. A devastated Coley went on to devote his medical career to cancer research.

Coley is sometimes referred to as the “father of cancer immunotherapy,” according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

During his career, he noticed that infections in cancer patients were sometimes associated with the disease regressing. The surprising discovery prompted him to speculate that intentionally producing an infection in a patient could help treat cancer.

To test the idea, Coley created a mixture of bacteria and used that cocktail to create infections in cancer patients in 1893. The bacteria would sometimes spur a patient’s immune system to attack not only the infection but also anything else in the body that appeared “foreign,” including a tumor. In one case, when Coley injected streptococcal bacteria into a cancer patient to cause erysipelas, a bacterial infection in the skin, the patient’s tumor vanished — presumably because it was attacked by the immune system.

Coley’s idea was occasionally studied by various researchers in the 1900s but was not widely accepted as a cancer treatment approach until more recently.

“Immunotherapy has essentially undergone a sort of revolution in the last decade in the sense that something that was experimental — and there were still questions about what role it would have in the way cancer is treated — is completely turned around, and now it’s clear it’s effective,” Greenberg said.

German physician Dr. Paul Ehrlich, who won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1908, proposed using the immune system to suppress tumor formation in the “immune surveillance” hypothesis — an idea that seems to follow Coley’s.

Yet it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the hypothesis became more widely accepted, according to the Cancer Research Institute. A landmark review published in the journal Nature Immunology in 2002 supported the validity of cancer immunosurveillance.

“Cancer immunotherapy really refers to treatments that use your own immune system to recognize, control and hopefully ultimately cure cancers,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, CEO of the Cancer Research Institute, during the conference in New York last month.

“Many people for many years didn’t think the immune system was really going to have a role in any treatment for cancer,” she said, “but I think the entire medical community (and) oncologists now agree that immunotherapy’s here to stay.”

‘Turning oncology on its head’

One of the most famous cancer patients to have received a form of immunotherapy is former President Jimmy Carter, who had a deadly form of skin cancer called melanoma. Last year, he announced that he was cancer-free after undergoing a combination of surgery, radiation and immunotherapy.

Carter was taking Keytruda. It’s approved to treat melanoma, non-small-cell lung cancer, and head and neck cancer. However, it’s not the only approved immunotherapy option out there.

“The advances and the results we’ve seen with using the immune system to treat cancer in the last five years or so are turning the practice of oncology on its head,” said Dr. Crystal Mackall, a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine and expert on cancer immunotherapy.

You don’t want to overstate it. As an immunotherapist, I see things from my vantage point, which is biased, but my clinical colleagues use words like ‘revolution,’ ” she said. “When I hear them say that, I think, ‘Wow, this really is a paradigm shifting for how we think about treating cancer.’ ”

Immunotherapy comes in many forms — treatment vaccines, antibody therapies and drugs — and can be received through an injection, a pill or capsule, a topical ointment or cream, or a catheter.

The FDA approved the first treatment vaccine for cancer, called sipuleucel-T or Provenge, in 2010. It stimulates an immune system response to prostate cancer cells and was found in clinical trials to increase the survival of men with a certain type of prostate cancer by about four months.

Another treatment vaccine, called T-VEC or Imlygic, was approved by the FDA in 2015 to treat some patients with metastatic melanoma.

Some antibody therapies have been approved, as well. Antibodies, a blood protein, play a key role in the immune system and can be produced in a lab to help the immune system attack cancer cells.

The FDA has approved several antibody-drug conjugates, including Kadcyla for the treatment of some breast cancers, Adcetris for Hodgkin lymphoma and a type of non-Hodgkin T-cell lymphoma, and Zevalin for a type of non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphoma.

The FDA also has approved some immunotherapy drugs known as immune checkpoint inhibitors. They block some of the harm that cancer cells can cause to weaken the immune system.

Keytruda, which Carter took, is a checkpoint inhibitor drug. Other such drugs include Opdivo to treat Hodgkin lymphoma, advanced melanoma, a form of kidney cancer and advanced lung cancer. Tecentriq is used to treat bladder cancer, and Yervoy is used for late-stage melanoma.

Additionally, there are many immunotherapy treatments in clinical trials, such as CAR T-cell therapy. The cutting-edge therapy involves removing T-cells from a patient’s immune system, engineering those cells in a lab to target specific cancer cells and then infusing the engineered cells back into the patient. The treatment is being tested to treat leukemia and lymphoma.

“The real excitement now in cellular therapy, in T-cell therapies, is it reflects the developments in an area that we call synthetic biology, which is that you can add genes to cells and you can change what they do, how they behave, how they function, what they recognize,” Greenberg said.

The high price of new immunotherapy drugs has also garnered attention in the field, according to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. For instance, some estimates suggest that checkpoint inhibitor treatments could cost as much as $1 million per patient.

As approvals continue, many scientists caution that doctors and patients alike should prepare for potential severe side effects and downsides.

Boosting the immune system with such therapies may cause skin reactions, flu-like symptoms, heart palpitations, diarrhea and a risk of infection. New cancer immunotherapy drugs have even been linked to arthritis in some patients.

A clinical trial conducted by Juno Therapeutics to test the effectiveness of an experimental immunotherapy treatment for lymphoblastic leukemia was halted after three patients died. They suffered cerebral edema or brain swelling.

Greenberg is a scientific co-founder of Juno Therapeutics.

However, “one of the best attributes of immunotherapy and the future of medicine is that it’s very precise in the way that it kills tissue and spares normal tissue, so in some way, immunotherapy is less toxic (than other therapies). There are patients who are treated with checkpoint inhibitors who have essentially no side effects,” Mackall said. “That would never happen with chemotherapy. They would always have side effects.

“Still, you know, the fact remains that probably nothing is perfect, and there are likely to be some side effects, but as far as we know now, they are less likely to be as severe or prevalent.”

As immunotherapy continues to develop as an option for cancer treatment, experts plan to be realistic about forthcoming challenges.

The challenges of immunotherapy

Experts say they hope to better understand why some patients may have different responses to immunotherapy treatments than others — and why some treatments may result in remissions instead of relapses, or vice versa.

“There’s this whole problem of, you give people an immunotherapy, it looks like it’s working, and then it stops working. We get recurrences or progression after some period, and the question is, why did that happen? How can you change it?” Greenberg said.

“This is where the science has come to play an important part: Is it because the immune response was working and somehow the tumor turned it off? And if that’s the case, then we have to look at ways in which we can reactivate the immune system,” he said. “Or is it not that, is it just that the immune system did what it’s supposed to do, but now a variant grew out, now a tumor grew out that’s no longer recognized by the immune response you are enforcing? If that’s the case, then we need ways to build subsequent immune responses to tackle that.”

Therefore, researchers have to better understand the behavior of not only the immune system but also cancerous tumors — and it’s no simple task.

“If there’s a perception that it’s easy, that’s a mistake. I think our lab has spent decades trying to figure out how to manipulate the immune response,” Greenberg said.

“Some patients are anticipating things to change overnight and be immediately available as a therapy. It takes quite a while,” he said, “but I’m quite certain immunotherapy is going to be enormously useful. It’s just, right now, we are limited in what can be done.”

*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy

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October, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

The startling rise in oral cancer in men, and what it says about our changing sexual habits

Source: www.washingtonpost.com
Author: Ariana Eunjung Cha

Oral cancer is on the rise in American men, with health insurance claims for the condition jumping 61 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to a new analysis.

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The most dramatic increases were in throat cancer and tongue cancer, and the data show that claims were nearly three times as common in men as in women during that same period with a split of 74 percent to 26 percent.

The startling numbers — published in a report on Tuesday by FAIR Health an independent nonprofit — are based on a database of more than 21 billion privately billed medical and dental claims. They illustrate both the cascading effect of human papillomavirus (HPV) in the United States and our changing sexual practices.

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 50,000 Americans will be infected this year, with 9,500 dying from the disease. In past generations, oral cancer was mostly linked to smoking, alcohol use or a combination of the two. But even as smoking rates have fallen, oral cancer rates have remained about the same, and researchers have documented in recent studies that this may be caused by HPV.

HPV infects cells of the skin and the membranes that lines areas such as the mouth, throat, tongue, tonsils, rectum and sexual organs. Transmission can occur when these areas come into contact with the virus. HPV is a leading cause of cervical, vaginal and penile cancers.

Surveys have shown that younger men are more likely to perform oral sex than their older counterparts and have a tendency to engage with more partners.

“These differences in sexual behavior across age cohorts explain the differences that we see in oral HPV prevalence and in HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer across the generations and why the rate of this cancer is increasing,” Gypsyamber D’Souza, an associate professor in the Viral Oncology and Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said at the time. The work was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

In February, researchers at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting reported that men are not only more likely to be infected with oral HPV than women but are less likely to clear the infection. It’s not known why oral HPV is more aggressive in men.

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HPV is an extremely common virus that has infected nearly 80 million, or one in four, people in the United States. Fortunately, the risk of contracting HPV can be greatly reduced by a vaccine. HPV has become a public health priority in recent years with dozens of countries recommending universal vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get it at the age of 11 or 12, although they may get vaccinated as early as 9 years old. The CDC said earlier this month that young people who get it before the age of 15 need two doses rather than the typical three.

A CDC study has found that although fewer teenagers and young adults are having sex than in previous years, more are engaging in oral sex than vaginal intercourse under the assumption that it’s safer.

“However, young people, particularly those who have oral sex before their first vaginal intercourse, may still be placing themselves at risk of STIs or HIV before they are ever at risk of pregnancy,” the researchers wrote in the 2012 report.

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October, 2016|Oral Cancer News|