HPV

Simple test can detect oral cancer in minutes

Source: www.click2houston.com
Author: Click2Houston.com Staff

Nearly 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States this year, and those numbers are expected to rise. Now, a simple, non-invasive test may soon be available to detect this deadly cancer early, with the hope of saving more lives.

Jeffrey Stanger was enjoying the good life when a trip to the dentist led to a frightening diagnosis. A biopsy revealed Jeffrey had oral cancer.

“When we refer to oral cancer, I’m talking about tumors involved in the mouth or the throat,” otolaryngologist, Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann explained.

Franzmann said cases of oral cancers are on the rise in this country due to the human papilloma virus or HPV. She says this type of cancer can be difficult to detect early on.

“So we are in better need of screening tools for this disease that are simple and inexpensive,” Franzmann added.

Franzmann and her team discovered that a molecule called CD44 plays an important role.

“We published a paper that showed that sure enough the levels in cancer patients were elevated compared to controls,” Franzmann said.

From there they developed a simple oral rinse test called OncAlert that can be used right in the dentist’s office.

Franzmann, showing the product, explained, “This protein pad here will turn a certain color of green.”

The green color means shows a person is at high risk. Jeffrey says this simple test can be a life saver.

“So you can detect it in very earlier stages,” he explained.

Jeffrey had surgery to remove the cancer, and is back smiling and enjoying life.

In spring of 2017 Vigilant Biosciences opened their FDA trial for the U.S. version of the OncAlert rapid test. A similar test that’s sent to the lab is already available here in the U.S. Both tests are made by Vigilant Biosciences, which recently received a federal grant from the National Institutes of Health for Oral Cancer Research.

September, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

World Trade Center responders might face greater risk of HPV throat and tongue cancer

Source: medicalxpress.com
Author: provided by Rutgers University

Firefighters at the World Trade Center were exposed to tons of toxic dust and debris that blanketed Manhattan on 9/11. Credit: Shutterstock

Researchers at Rutgers University – investigating the causes of head and neck cancers in World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers – will take the lead in a study to determine whether the responders are at a greater risk for human papillomavirus (HPV)-related throat and tongue cancer because of their exposure to toxic dust and debris.

“If we find that the prevalence of HPV is higher in World Trade Center exposed rescue workers it could mean that they have an increased likelihood of infection with HPV or have less of an ability to be able to clear this common infection naturally,” said Judith Graber, assistant professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with most infections going away on their own. There is also now a vaccine to prevent HPV given to adolescents and teens. This is a new vaccine not given to adults and rates of vaccination have been low in the US.

While HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer, which includes throat, tonsils, back of tongue and soft palate, is relatively small, the number of HPV throat and tongue cancers are expected to increase and surpass HPV-related cervical cancers by 2020.

Graber said oropharyngeal cancer – which has a lower survival rate – is among the diseases which pose great risk for WTC rescue and recovery workers, who appear to have a greater incidence of throat and tongue cancer. Surviving patients, often left disfigured after treatments, are at a higher rate for depression, unemployment and suicide compared with other cancer patients, according to the study.

While the prevalence of HPV in the United States among people age 69 and younger is estimated at less than 10 percent, Graber said research indicates that 80 percent of all tumors found in this type of cancer are infected with HPV, some which can cause cancer.

“The symptoms, risk factors and exposure history could help in early prevention of this very devastating cancer,” said Graber.

The new Rutgers study will use tissue samples provided by the World Trade Center Biorepository at Mount Sinai from WTC workers diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer and compare to tissue samples of people being treated for the disease at University Hospital in Newark.

This research is a spinoff of a two-year federally funded study examining risk factors for all head and neck cancers among WTC responders. Graber and her colleagues, including co-principal investigator, Mark Einstein, professor and chair department of OBGYN & Women’s Health at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, are hoping to discover opportunities for early detection for these potentially debilitating diseases.

“HPV is very common, but cancers related to HPV are uncommon,” said Einstein. “Understanding the relationship between HPV and the development of oropharyngeal cancer is of critical importance so we can prevent and target this cancer better with novel therapies”.

What researchers need to determine in this new study, Graber said, is whether the higher incidence of the throat and tongue cancer is due to the fact that this group is being closely monitored, because of respiratory exposure after 9/11 or as a result of an HPV infection that creates a problem for a weakened immune system.

The information is critical, Graber said, in the quest to design a more definitive study to determine how and why these cancers are developing among those exposed during the rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts at the World Trade Cente

September, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

What’s next after creating a cancer-prevention vaccine?

Source: www.scientificamerican.com
Author: Dina Fine Maron

A winner of this year’s Lasker Awards talks about his work with HPV

Imagine a vaccine that protects against more than a half-dozen types of cancer—and has a decade of data and experience behind it.

We have one. It’s the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, and it was approved for the U.S. market back in June 2006. It can prevent almost all cervical cancers and protect against cancers of the mouth, throat and anus. It also combats the sexually transmitted genital warts that some forms of the virus can cause.

On Wednesday, two researchers who completed fundamental work on these vaccines received one of this year’s prestigious Lasker Awards, a group of medical prizes sometimes called the “American Nobels.” Douglas Lowy and John Schiller, whose research provided the basis for the HPV vaccine, were selected alongside a researcher who separately unraveled key aspects of metabolic control of cell growth. Planned Parenthood was also given an award, for its public service. Lowy and Schiller, who both work at the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI), received the Lasker for their research on animal and human papillomaviruses—work that enabled the development of a vaccine against HPV-16 type, a form of the virus that fuels many HPV malignancies. The duo’s experiments proved that the vaccine is effective in animals, and they also conducted the first clinical trial of an HPV-16 vaccine in humans. That gave pharmaceutical companies the evidence they needed to invest in their own vaccines designed to protect against multiple kinds of HPV, and ultimately led to the versions administered around the world today.

Yet HPV shots have had a difficult run. Despite overwhelming evidence of their safety and effectiveness, in some developed countries—including the U.S.—HPV inoculations face opposition from individuals and groups that fear the shots are still too new and unproved to use on their children. The HPV vaccine also faces another hurdle beyond other routine pediatric shots: the virus is transmitted via sexual contact—which some parents and communities believe teens should not or will not have, and thus that the shots should not be mandatory. (The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] currently recommends administering two doses of the vaccines to children 11 to 12 years old, administered at least six months apart.)

Scientific American spoke with Schiller, a virologist, about his and Lowy’s award-winning HPV research, their future plans and how to combat anti-vaccine attitudes.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

What’s the biggest hurdle to getting more coverage with the HPV vaccine?
The biggest problem is actually not in the West or most developed countries; it is in the lower- and middle-income countries because of availability there and vaccine prices that limit availability. In those settings vaccine acceptance is actually very high. But those settings present the biggest problem, since some 85 percent of cervical cancers occur in low-resource settings. In the more developed countries there are many different factors involved [in vaccine hesitancy], and they differ by country. In the U.S. it is more about fear of vaccines in general. And there are some issues with HPV vaccines specifically related to this being about a sexually transmitted disease.

So far, more than 270 million doses of HPV vaccines have been distributed worldwide. But in the United States, by 2015 only 28 percent of teen males and 42 percent of teen girls had received the full course of three shots then recommended by the CDC. How can the science community help combat HPV vaccine hesitancy?
There are quite a few studies that show one of the biggest issues is that the vaccine is not being promoted sufficiently by pediatricians and general practitioners. If you look at other vaccines like for meningitis and hepatitis B—which are also administered to adolescents and could be given in the same visit as HPV—they are given at greater rates than HPV. So, there is some disconnect in communication between pediatricians and parents there. Part of the problem here is that the HPV vaccine is a prophylactic vaccine to prevent a disease—cervical cancer—that those providers never see. Obstetrician-gynecologists see it, but pediatricians don’t, which is the opposite of most other childhood or pediatric vaccines. Right now it’s being singled out as something special instead of treated as a routine childhood or adolescent vaccine. But we’ve had this vaccine for 10 years now and it’s not the new kid on the block anymore.

Mounting evidence suggests that among people who feel vaccines are unsafe, any new data showing that they arereally safe does not move the needle to convince them. So, what can be done?
My feeling is that there is a certain percentage of people who, no matter what facts you present to them, they are just not going to be convinced. Quite frankly it doesn’t pay to spend a lot of resources trying to convince that relatively small fraction. What we need to focus on is a much larger fraction of the population who aren’t having their kids vaccinated for reasons like convenience—like it’s a hassle—or they just need a bit more information to make them comfortable. People against all vaccines, those people would not be convinced to get an HPV vaccine so it’s not worth spending a lot of resources on them. I think one of the things that would increase HPV vaccine coverage would be allowing people to get them at their local CVS. I’m not an expert on this, but I have a daughter who as a teen spent much more time at the local CVS than at her local Kaiser clinic. Different states have different laws about which vaccines can and can’t be delivered at pharmacies—but if someone could go get an HPV vaccine at the same place they get their flu vaccine, presumably it would lead to an uptick.

I see you studied molecular biology as an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Did you always want to work on vaccines?
No, absolutely not. When I first started out I was an academic purist and thought you should study knowledge for its own sake. I was fascinated by molecular biology. When I first heard about the way metabolism works in bacteria, plants and humans, that just wowed me because that was a common feature of all life. I just wanted to study that. I thought people who did translational work were sort of selling out to the man—this was in the 1970s. I didn’t get interested in vaccines until much later. Now, I’m very fascinated with translational research.

So, what changed?
It was a very gradual thing. To this day we still do basic research, and it’s still intrinsically valuable to do basic research because you don’t know when it will lead to a transformational breakthrough.

What led you to work on HPV?
When I had just joined the field, suddenly there was this discovery that made papilloma viruses important for human health as opposed to just an understanding of how cells become cancerous. I had joined Doug Lowy’s lab at the National Cancer Institute as a postdoc back in 1983, and the second lecture I went to there was by Harald zur Hausen—who later won the Nobel Prize—and his lecture was saying “eureka! We found a virus that seems to cause 50 percent of cervical cancers”—and that virus turned out to be a human papilloma virus strain, HPV-16. So basically we went from looking at a model about how a normal cell transforms to become carcinogenic to something probably involved in causing human cancer. It was somewhat serendipitous.

What are you working on now?
One thing we are doing at the NCI, and cosponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is testing if one dose of HPV vaccine is enough to provide long-term protection. It would be transformative, especially in the developing country setting, if you could just have one dose at a younger age. This new trial is going to be done in Costa Rica in collaboration with the Costa Rican government. That’s the site where we had done a prior pilot trial that suggested one dose may be enough.

We are also looking into cancer immunotherapy work. It turns out that these virus-like particles that we work with for the HPV vaccine—these are typically the outer shell of a virus, like from the HPV-16 strain or other animal, or human papilloma virus particles—have a unique ability to infect tumor cells and bind to them specifically. So we are using that knowledge to develop cancer therapies that are broad-spectrum. It turns out these cancers, like melanoma, do bind these particles, specifically.

One other thing we are doing is trying to develop vaccines that would treat herpes simplex infections and HPV infections in the female genital tract. Again, this would take advantage of these virus-like particles’ structures.

Last year I interviewed Michael Sofia, who won a Lasker Award for his hepatitis C vaccine work. The name of that vaccine, sofosbuvir—brand name Sovaldi—is a nod to his last name. But the National Institutes of Health (NIH) do a lot of early-stage research, and then it’s passed off to private companies that develop it further. Your name isn’t part of the HPV vaccines Gardasil or Cervarix, for example. Is it frustrating doing a lot of that behind-the-scenes work?
It’s funny because I would never have thought of that. It would have never entered my mind to name a vaccine after ourselves. We are so used to doing this translational work. My job is to move a project along so it’s interesting enough for a company to invest hundreds of millions of dollars for the benefit of large numbers of people. NIH doesn’t have the money to do phase III trials for lots of drugs, and even if they did it wouldn’t lead to all the drugs we need—because NIH wouldn’t have the money to develop them. This translational and basic research is what NIH does best. That work is way too fraught with failure for companies to do it all. It has to be done in the public sector, and then when things look more promising companies can take it over.

What advice would you offer someone considering becoming a scientist now?

It’s got to be a passion because being a scientist—especially early in your career—is more a lifestyle than occupation. You have to really want to do it, because there is a lot of uncertainty—especially about running your own lab and getting funding. Success and failure can be on a knife’s edge sometimes. The other thing is that you need to be strategic about thinking of what you want to go into, and that’s hard for young people because they don’t have the perspective: There are some fields just opening up ripe for discoveries. And there are some areas that are very mature, that we have been working on for a long time, where there are a lot of scientists working already—so the chances of making a big impact are lower. From my own life, this is like when we started with human papilloma viruses. When I went into this field, we had just been given the tools to study them and so it seemed like a great opportunity to get involved. In some ways it’s best if you can pick an emerging field with new tools to answer big questions. But you have to pick something you are really interested in and go with it.

The other thing I’d say is read a lot. Now with PubMed and access to all these journals there is no excuse for not knowing the background in something that basically has already been done. Young people tend to want to get out and do experiments, but a few days searching PubMed may save someone years of work trying to reinvent the wheel.

Right now, what would you say is the biggest challenge—or one of the biggest challenges—that needs to be solved?
That’s a really tough one. I think as scientists we are all sort of locked into the things we study. I could say cancer, obviously. But Alzheimer’s is something we obviously need to solve. HIV infection. All these different things. One of the things that really needs to be solved in terms of the whole scientific enterprise now is stable funding. Right now we are in a situation where there are too many good scientists—especially young scientists—competing for a limited pot of money. So you lose some good people because there’s not enough money to go around. Also, people are forced to do relatively mundane things that are really a methodological extension of something they’ve done before instead of something truly transformative that would have a large chance of failure. Grant reviewers are looking at something likely to succeed and move the field incrementally, or something transformative that may have a high chance of failure, and have to make those decisions. This is an issue across the sciences. The obvious solution would be to have more funding, but then that raises the question about how to do that. And I’m not a politician.

What, if anything, does this Lasker Award do for your work?
Quite honestly, probably nothing, because one of the nice things about being part of intramural research [at NIH] is that I have stable funding. I’ve had six people in my lab for the last 25 years, so this won’t lead to more grants or me doubling the size of my lab, or anything like that. I’m happy with my moderate-sized lab and collaborations with a lot of great people. That’s why I’m here. Every four years we have a site visit, which is a retrospective review of “what have you done for us lately,” and if it’s reasonable I will continue to get funding. So the award won’t affect my research career much at all.

Right now, some in the scientific community fear amid this political climate that facts matter less than they once did and thus science matters less. What’s your take on that?
Obviously, my perspective is science matters a lot. I really can’t comment on what’s happening in the country overall—and whether this is something that is pervasive where science is really held in less esteem, or it’s that there is a vocal minority being heard a lot now. I would hope it’s the latter.

September, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Why HPV Vaccination Rates Remain Low in Rural States

Source: TechnologyReview.com
Author: Emily Mullin
Date: September 1, 2017

 

Mandi Price never thought she’d be diagnosed with cancer at age 24. She was a healthy college student finishing her senior year when, during a regular Pap smear, her gynecologist found abnormal cells in her cervix. It was stage II cervical cancer.

Even more devastating was the fact that her cancer was preventable. Doctors detected a strain of human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., in Price’s cancer cells. That strain of HPV is targeted by a vaccine called Gardasil. But Price never got the vaccine. Her primary care doctor didn’t recommend it when she was a teenager growing up in Washington state. Had she received it before becoming infected with HPV, she wouldn’t have gotten cancer.

Price dropped out of her classes to get treatment. She needed surgery to remove the tumor from her cervix, then underwent chemotherapy and radiation to kill any remaining cancerous tissue. At her one-year follow-up appointment, doctors found that the cancer had spread. She endured chemotherapy for another six months. Now, at 29, Price is in remission and is working in Los Angeles. “Most of my 20s comprised being in a hospital. It was isolating,” she says.

Merck’s Gardasil vaccine was considered a breakthrough when it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2006. It was the first vaccine to protect against several cancers. But more than a decade after the vaccine came out, vaccination rates in many places in the U.S., especially in the South, Midwest, and Appalachian states, still remain much lower than rates for other childhood vaccines—too low to stop transmission of the most dangerous HPV strains.

In 2016, only about 50 percent of girls and 38 percent of boys had all the required doses of the HPV vaccine needed to be fully protected, according to data released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those figures are up slightly from last year, but still not close to the 80 percent that public health experts want to achieve.

Gardasil is approved to protect against cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers in girls and women ages 9 through 26, as well as anal cancer for the same age group in both girls and boys. Recently, the vaccine has also been shown to protect against oral cancers in men. HPV causes about 32,000 cancers every year, with cervical cancer the most common for women and oral cancers the most frequent in men.

Electra Paskett, a cancer epidemiologist at Ohio State University, says she is still surprised that the vaccine’s uptake has been so slow. “It’s crazy that there’s not a line around the corner. If we said we have a vaccine for breast cancer, we’d be vaccinating day and night,” she says.

The problem the vaccine has faced is its link to a taboo in American culture: sexual activity among teenagers. About one in four people in the U.S., including teens, are currently infected with HPV. Health-care providers are the biggest hurdle to getting more children vaccinated. Some primary care physicians, like in Price’s case, may not recommend it at all.

For Merck, the world’s largest vaccine maker, Gardasil has been a profit generator even though the company admits the uptake of the vaccine has been surprisingly slow. The company says it’s trying to increase rates by educating health-care providers.

William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, remembers the initial excitement in the medical community when Gardasil first came out. “I thought the advent of our first explicitly anti-cancer vaccine, and the fact that it was so incredibly successful and safe, would be immediately embraced with pizzazz and rose petals,” he says.

Regional differences
State vaccination rates were as high as 73 percent among girls in Rhode Island and as low as 31 percent in South Carolina for all three doses in 2016. Among boys, Wyoming had the lowest rate, with only 20 percent getting the full round of shots.

Overall, teens living in major metropolitan areas were far more likely to get the vaccine than those living in rural areas, which may be more socially conservative and lack access to certain health-care services. In some of these places, average household incomes are lower than the national average, and parents might not be able to afford to take their pre-teens or teens to get the vaccine.

In some states with low vaccination rates, HPV-caused cancers are the among the highest. In Mississippi, for example, only about 34 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys get all required doses of the vaccine. The state also has one of the highest rates of HPV-related cervical cancer in the country. Wyoming tells a similar story, with high rates of HPV-associated cancers in both men and women.

Of course, those cancer rates can’t yet be tied to the states’ low vaccination rates. Gardasil was introduced just over a decade ago, and many of these cancer cases are in people who were too old to get the vaccine when it came out. But it means that these disparities could grow if more people there don’t get the vaccine.

HPV vaccination for boys is especially lagging in some areas. Paskett, who has studied cancer in Appalachia, say there’s a perception that HPV only causes cancers in women. “A lot of parents don’t know that boys should be vaccinated,” she says. Boys and men not only carry HPV but can get HPV-related cancers, like anal, penile, throat, and tongue cancers.

Price says shortly after her cancer diagnosis, she urged her parents to get her two younger brothers vaccinated.

Doctor hesitancy
A 2015 study found that a little over a quarter of the 776 pediatricians and family physicians surveyed do not strongly endorse the HPV vaccine. About one-third of the total doctors surveyed also said that having to talk about a sexually transmitted infection makes them uncomfortable.

Nneka Holder, associate professor of adolescent medicine at University of Mississippi Medical Center, says she is frustrated that so many doctors don’t recommend the HPV vaccine because they think it means they have to talk to parents about sex.

“We don’t usually explain to patients how they get hepatitis or meningitis,” she says. “So why should HPV be different?” Instead, she says health-care providers should focus on the cancer prevention aspect of the vaccine, rather than how HPV is spread.

Even health-care providers who do talk to parents about the vaccine aren’t always effective at getting their message across. A study from 2014 found that 47 percent of Minnesota health-care physicians and nurses that did ask parents about their concerns with the vaccine said they lacked time to probe the issue further, and 55 percent felt they couldn’t change parents’ minds.

Schaffner says doctors that are most successful with getting parents on board with the HPV vaccine are the ones who don’t call special attention to it. He says the best tactic is for physicians to sandwich in the HPV vaccine with other recommended vaccines—as in, “It’s time for your son to get the meningococcal, HPV, and Tdap vaccines.”

Parent concerns
Since the vaccine is just over 10 years old, it’s too early to know how many cases of cancer it has prevented so far. But clinical trials have showed that the vaccine provides nearly 100 percent protection against cervical infections caused by certain strains of HPV. These infections have fallen by 64 percent among teen girls in the U.S. since 2006, when the vaccine was introduced. Large clinical trials of the HPV vaccine have also shown it’s safe for both boys and girls.

These benefits have led Virginia, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C., to adopt public school mandates for HPV vaccination. But some parents are still uncomfortable about the HPV vaccine’s association with sex and think their children don’t need it because they’re not sexually active. That has led parents to form groups in opposition to such mandates.

Aimee Gardiner, director of one such group called Rhode Island Against Mandated HPV Vaccine, says she doesn’t see HPV as the “epidemic” she thinks the CDC has made it out to be. “For me the risk of developing a cancer from any HPV is so insignificantly small that I do not feel like the vaccine is a necessity,” she says. Gardiner has two children, one of whom isn’t old enough to receive the vaccine and the other who hasn’t received it. She says she doesn’t plan to vaccinate them with Gardasil.

It’s true that for most people, the immune system clears the virus from their systems naturally. But for a small number of people, HPV persists and can turn cancerous. For those patients, like Price, cancer can be a major life ordeal, not to mention much more expensive than a vaccine that costs about $150 per dose.

Looking ahead
HPV vaccination rates continue to increase steadily, but the problems associated with its uptake could spell trouble for other vaccines in the future. For example, researchers for years have been working on a vaccine that would protect people from contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. If a vaccine for HIV were ever to be successful, it could run into the same problems. HIV’s risk factors—unprotected sex and intravenous drug use—make it even more taboo.

Another worry is that rising anti-vaccine sentiments causing parents to opt out of vaccinating their children will hurt efforts to expand HPV vaccine coverage.

One factor that may increase vaccination rates is a new guideline from the CDC announced in October 2016. Children ages 11 to 14 now only need two doses of the HPV vaccine at least six months apart instead of three, which was previously recommended. Teens 15 and older still need to complete the three-dose series. This change may increase uptake of the vaccine, as vaccination rates drop off after each dose.

For Price and other cancer patients, the thought of not getting a vaccine that could prevent something so terrible is unimaginable. “I am a huge proponent of it,” she says. “If you had the chance to prevent cancer in your son or daughter, why wouldn’t you do that?”

September, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

HPV-related oral cancers have risen significantly in Canada

Source: www.ctvnews.ca
Author: Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press

The proportion of oral cancers caused by the human papillomavirus has risen significantly in Canada, say researchers, who suggest the infection is now behind an estimated three-quarters of all such malignancies. In a cross-Canada study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the researchers found the incidence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers increased by about 50 per cent between 2000 and 2012.

“It’s a snapshot of looking at the disease burden and the time trend to see how the speed of the increase of this disease (is changing),” said co-author Sophie Huang, a research radiation therapist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.

Researchers looked at data from specialized cancer centres in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia to determine rates of HPV-related tumours among 3,643 patients aged 18 years or older who had been diagnosed with squamous cell oropharyngeal cancer between 2000 and 2012.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection worldwide. Most people never develop symptoms and the infection resolves on its own within about two years.

“In 2000, the proportion of throat cancer caused by HPV was estimated at 47 per cent,” said Huang. “But in 2012, the proportion became 74 per cent … about a 50 per cent increase.”

Statistics from a Canadian Cancer Society report last fall showed 1,335 Canadians were diagnosed in 2012 with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer and 372 died from the disease.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection worldwide. Most people never develop symptoms and the infection resolves on its own within about two years. But in some people, the infection can persist, leading to cervical cancer in women, penile cancer in men and oropharyngeal cancer in both sexes.

Most cases of HPV-related oral cancer are linked to oral sex, said Huang, noting that about 85 per cent of the cases in the CMAJ study were men.

HPV-related tumours respond better to treatment and have a higher survival rate than those linked to tobacco and alcohol use, the other major cause of oral cancer, she said, adding that early identification of a tumour’s cause is important to ensure appropriate and effective treatment.

While some centres in Canada routinely test oral tumours to determine their HPV status, such testing is not consistent across the country, the researchers say.

In the past, physicians generally tended to reserve tumour testing for cases most likely to be caused by HPV – among them younger males with no history of smoking and with light alcohol consumption – to prevent an unnecessary burden on pathology labs.

“Only as accumulating data have supported the clinical importance of HPV testing has routine testing been implemented in most (though not all) Canadian centres,” the researchers write.

The study showed that the proportion of new HPV-related oral cancers rose as those caused by non-HPV-related tumours fell between 2000 and 2012 – likely the result of steadily declining smoking rates.

Huang said males tend to have a weaker immune response to HPV than do females, which may in part explain the higher incidence of oral cancers linked to the virus in men.

HPV vaccines given to young people before they become sexually active can prevent infection – and the researchers say both boys and girls should be inoculated.

Currently, six provinces provide HPV immunization to Grade 6 boys as well as girls, with the other four provinces set to add males to vaccination programs this fall, said Huang.

“So vaccinating boys is very important because, if you look at Canadian Cancer Society statistics (for 2012), HPV- related oropharyngeal cancer in total numbers has already surpassed cervical cancers,” she said.
“The increase of HPV-related cancer is real, and it’s striking that there’s no sign of a slowdown.”

August, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

U.S. FDA removes clinical hold on CEL-SCI’s phase 3 head & neck cancer trial

Source: www.businesswire.com
Author: press release

CEL-SCI Corporation today announced it has received a letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that the clinical hold that had been imposed on the Company’s Phase 3 cancer study with Multikine* (Leukocyte Interleukin, Inj.) has been removed and that all clinical trial activities under this Investigational New Drug application (IND) may resume.

Multikine is being studied as a potential first-line (before any other cancer treatment is given) immunotherapy that is aimed at harnessing the patient’s own immune system to produce an anti-tumor response. Nine hundred twenty-eight (928) newly diagnosed head and neck cancer patients have been enrolled in this Phase 3 cancer study and all the patients who have completed treatment continue to be followed for protocol-specific outcomes in accordance with the Study Protocol.

The study’s primary endpoint is a 10% increase in overall survival for patients treated with the Multikine treatment regimen plus standard of care (SOC) versus those who receive SOC only. The determination if the study’s primary end point has been met will occur when there are a total of 298 deaths in those two groups. Current SOC for this indication is surgery, followed by radiation therapy alone or followed by concurrent radio-chemotherapy.

There is a clear and unmet medical need for a new treatment in this indication as the last FDA approved treatment for advanced primary head and neck cancer was over 50 years ago. The FDA has also designated Multikine an Orphan Drug for neoadjuvant therapy in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).

About Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer describes squamous cell carcinomas located inside the neck, mouth, nose, and throat. According to the World Health Organization, the annual incidence of head and neck cancer is approximately 550,000 cases worldwide, with about 300,000 deaths each year. Risk factors involved with head and neck cancer include heavy alcohol use, tobacco use, and the cancer causing type of human papilloma virus (HPV).

About CEL-SCI Corporation
CEL-SCI’s work is focused on finding the best way to activate the immune system to fight cancer and infectious diseases. The Company has operations in Vienna, Virginia, and in/near Baltimore, Maryland.

August, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

No HPV Vaccination for Boys in UK

Source: Peter Russell
Date: July 20, 2017
Source: www.medscape.com

Health bodies are condemning a decision not to include boys in the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programme as “shameful” and a “missed opportunity”.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has concluded that it “did not recommend vaccinating boys at this time as it was considered unlikely to be cost-effective”.

Girls aged 12 to 13 have routinely been offered the HPV jab since September 2008 as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

The JCVI has been considering whether to include boys on the scheme since 2014.

Protection Against Some Cancers

HPV is the name for a group of viruses that are most commonly passed on through genital contact between straight and same-sex partners.

It is a very common infection. Almost every sexually active person will get HPV at some time in their lives.

Most people who get HPV never develop symptoms or health problems, but for some it can lead to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and head and neck, as well as cause genital warts.

According to health professionals, the virus has been linked to 1 in 20 cases of cancer in the UK.

Campaigners in favour of giving boys the jab argue that HPV does not discriminate between the sexes and that offering the vaccine to boys in school would save lives.

‘Few Additional Benefits’

The JCVI has decided that a high take-up of the vaccine among girls would provide ‘herd protection’ to boys, and that vaccination of boys “would generate little additional benefit to the prevention of cervical cancer, which was the main aim of the programme”.

Additionally, the committee found insufficient evidence that the jab would protect against cancers affecting males such as anal, head and neck cancers. However, it agreed to keep evidence under review, particularly for men who have sex with men.

‘An Astonishing Decision’

Several health bodies have issued statements criticising the JCVI’s decision. The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare says it’s a “missed opportunity” and is urging it to reconsider its stance in October after a period of public consultation. Peter Baker, HPV action campaign director, says: “It is astonishing that the government’s vaccination advisory committee has ignored advice from patient organisations, doctors treating men with HPV-related cancers, public health experts and those whose lives have been devastated by HPV.

“The interim decision not to vaccinate boys is about saving money not public health or equity.”

Dentists are also condemning the decision. Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association, says: “HPV has emerged as the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, so JCVI’s unwillingness to expand the vaccination programme to boys is frankly indefensible. The state has a responsibility to offer all our children the best possible defence.

Dentists are also condemning the decision. Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association, says: “HPV has emerged as the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, so JCVI’s unwillingness to expand the vaccination programme to boys is frankly indefensible. The state has a responsibility to offer all our children the best possible defence.

“Dentists are on the front line in the battle against oral cancer, a condition with heart-breaking and life-changing results. Ministers can choose to sit this one out, or show they really believe in prevention.”

‘Shameful’

Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy, comments: “We’re disappointed to hear that the JCVI has made an interim recommendation not to offer the HPV vaccine to boys. If boys were included in the vaccination programme, it would help reduce the risk of HPV related cancers for the whole population, compared to vaccinating girls alone.”

The Terrence Higgins Trust describes the JCVIs decision as “shameful”. Its chief executive, Ian Green, says: “A gender neutral policy on HPV vaccination is long overdue and would protect boys from cancers caused by untreated HPV, including penile, anal and some types of head and neck cancer.”.

Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, says: “As increasing numbers of girls take up the vaccine then risk of heterosexual transmission decreases and the benefit of vaccinating boys diminishes.

“But of course, this reliance on herd immunity doesn’t provide optimal benefit for boys who go onto have sex with other men in adulthood.  There is a pilot vaccination programme running for men who have sex with men, but not all men at risk are likely to enrol in this, and we know the vaccine is most effective before someone becomes sexually active.

Limited Health Resources

“Unfortunately, it isn’t a question of science – it’s one of cost – and at the moment the Vaccination and Immunisation Committee doesn’t consider that the benefits are worth the investment.”

Dr David Elliman, consultant in community child health, adds: “Although it always seems hard to have to consider cost, it is important to make sure that we spend the money available to the NHS in a way that gets us best value.”

August, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Transoral robotic surgery cuts patient recovery time

Source: exclusive.multibriefs.com
Author: Carolina Pickens

Oral cancer is diagnosed in almost 50,000 Americans each year and has a 57 percent survivability rate past five years, according to research from the Oral Cancer Foundation.

3D illustration of surgical robot

The number of diagnoses has been fairly constant in oral and pharyngeal cancer for decades, but survivability has actually gone up slightly in the last 10 years. This can be attributed to the increasing percentage of patients with dental insurance attending annual appointments (when oral cancer is most often recognized and diagnosed earlier), the spread of HPV-related oral cancer (which is easier to treat) and advances in diagnostic tools for dentists and oral specialists.

These advancements aren’t limited to recognizing oral and throat cancer; strides in scientific approaches for surgical treatment are changing the way specialists treat oral phalangeal cancers. For example, Nepean Hospital of New South Wales has seen drastic improvement in patients’ quality of life and surgical recovery time by performing transoral robotic surgery (TORS) with the da Vinci System.

This technology provides surgeons the tools needed to perform successful, minimally-invasive surgeries for patients with T1 or T2 throat cancers.

“Without the robot, tongue and throat cancers are among the most difficult tumors to surgically remove,” said Dr. Chin, an otolaryngology, head and neck surgeon at the hospital.

Previous surgical methods required surgeons cut into the neck to access tumors in the throat and back of the mouth — and operations would often last for up to 12 hours at a time. This caused permanent scarring and required recovery time in ICU and months of physical or occupational therapy for patients to learn to talk and eat again.

TORS grants surgeons the ability to operate intraorally, reducing time spent on the operating table down to merely 45 minutes. Surgeons get a 3-D view of the tumor and a high-definition picture of the mouth and throat with this high-tech equipment — this also greatly reduces the likelihood parts of a tumor go unseen and remain in the body post-surgery.

A surgeon, who stays in control of the robot 100 percent of the time, then uses instruments on his or her own wrists to guide the robot during each step of the surgery. The TORS rotation is also far greater than that of a human wrist — granting the ability to access parts of the patient’s throat previously unreachable with conventional surgery.

As noted in Dentistry Today, this minimally-invasive technique has patients eating within 24 hours and cuts recovery time in the hospital from weeks to two days. Patients are able to maintain their independence post-surgery. This is revolutionary for older patients, for whom complicated surgeries often cause a decrease in their overall quality of life.

As more surgical practices obtain this valuable technology, oral and dental specialists expect to see more improvements in survivability rates for patients with pharyngeal and oral cancers.

Plan not to give HPV vaccine to boys causes concern

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-40658791
Date: July 19th, 2017

A decision not to vaccinate boys against a cancer-causing sexually transmitted infection has attracted fierce criticism.

Reported cases of human papilloma virus (HPV) – thought to cause about 80% of cervical cancers – have fallen sharply since girls were given the vaccine.

But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) found little evidence to justify treating boys too.

Critics said vaccinating boys could help reduce the risk still further.

Across the UK, all girls aged 12-13 are offered HPV vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said: “Evidence from around the world suggests that the risk of HPV infection in males is dramatically reduced by achieving high uptake of the HPV vaccine among girls.

“While there are some additional benefits to vaccinating both males and females, the current models indicate that extending the programme to boys in the UK, where the uptake in adolescent girls is consistently high (over 85%), would not represent a good use of NHS resources.”

This initial recommendation by JCVI will now be subject to a public consultation and a final decision will be made in October.

The British Dental Association said it would urge the committee to reconsider the evidence.

The chair of the BDA, Mick Armstrong, said: “HPV has emerged as the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, so JCVI’s unwillingness to expand the vaccination programme to boys is frankly indefensible.”

Shirley Cramer of the Royal Society for Public Health said: “We are deeply disappointed by the JCVI’s decision today, which suggests that fundamental priorities are focused more on saving money than on saving lives.

“Such a simple vaccination programme has the potential to make such a big impact on the public’s health on a national scale.

“We hope that the government’s advisory committee reconsider this decision as soon as possible and put the public’s health and wellbeing before cost-saving.”

The argument for vaccinating boys HPV

  • About 15% of UK girls eligible for vaccination are currently not receiving both doses, a figure which is much higher in some areas
  • Men may have sex with women too old to have had the HPV vaccination
  • Men may have sex with women from other countries with no vaccination programme
  • Men who have sex with men are not protected by the girls’ programme
  • The cost of treating HPV-related diseases is high – treating anogenital warts alone in the UK is estimated to cost £58m a year, while the additional cost of vaccinating boys has been estimated at about £20m a year

Source: HPV Action

July, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Biotech exec facing death urges: Get the vaccine that prevents his cancer

Source: www.philly.com
Author: Michael D. Becker

Like most people who pen a new book, Michael D. Becker is eager for publicity.

But he has an unusual sense of urgency.

A former oncology biotech CEO, Becker has neck cancer. He expects his 49th birthday in November to be his last, if he makes it.

What also drives him to get his message out, however, is this: Children today can get a vaccine that prevents the kind of oropharyngeal cancer that is killing him.

As he collides with his mortality, Becker wants to share his story and raise awareness about the vaccine, which protects against dangerous strains of human papillomavirus, or HPV, the extremely common, sexually transmitted virus that caused his disease. His book, A Walk With Purpose: Memoir of a Bioentrepreneur (available on Amazon.com), was produced and self-published in a creative sprint between December, when his cancer recurred just a year after initial diagnosis and treatment, and April. He also has a blog, My Cancer Journey, and has been conducting media interviews.

“I had a lot of motivation to write the book quickly,” he said wryly at his home in Yardley.

In the final pages, he urges parents “to talk to their doctor about the HPV vaccine,” which “simply didn’t exist when I was a teenager, or it could have prevented my cancer.”

The leading vaccine brand, Gardasil, was hailed as a breakthrough when it was introduced in 2006. It is approved to prevent cervical cancer and less common genital malignancies, including anal cancer, that are driven by HPV infections. The vaccine was not clinically tested to prevent head and neck cancers, so it is not officially approved for that purpose, but research shows that it works. A study of young men presented last month found that vaccination reduced oral HPV infections by 88 percent.

Still, many adolescents are not getting the shots, for various reasons.

“It just kills me,” Becker says without a trace of irony, “that it’s underutilized. There are parents debating about whether to vaccinate their children. I’ve talked to immunologists about the safety. I had to make the decision to vaccinate my own kids. I was 100 percent convinced.”

From dropout to go-getter:
Becker describes his own youth as a bit misspent. He left home and dropped out of high school in his junior year, soon after his parents divorced.

“During my teens, I had experimented with sex, drugs, and alcohol while teaching myself how to play guitar and dreaming of becoming the next Eddie van Halen,” he writes in his book. “Making it through a number of near-death and reckless experiences during that period now seemed like a minor miracle.”

In his late teens, he wised up, got his equivalency diploma, and went to work for his father’s investment firm, where he discovered a talent for computer programming. Next came a job as a stock broker in Chicago, where he met and soon married Lorie Statland, an elementary school teacher who inspired him to get a college degree. The couple had two children, Rosie, now 19, and Megan, 16.

Becker went on to have a prolific career in biotechnology, complete with the occasional setbacks (lawsuits and soured partnerships) that are part of that high-stakes world. His resume includes Wall Street securities analyst, portfolio manager, founder of his own communications firm, and top executive of three biotech companies, two of which developed oncology products. During his cancer treatment, he used a prescription medicine that he played a major role in developing while at New Jersey-based Cytogen Corp: Caphosol, an electrolyte mouthwash that treats mouth ulcers caused by radiation therapy.

His diagnosis followed his discovery of a lump under his jaw line on the day before Thanksgiving in 2015. Tests revealed cancer that had spread from a tonsil to a lymph node and surrounding tissue.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, he opted for chemotherapy and radiation instead of surgery. The operation, he explains, can damage speech and swallowing, and if it doesn’t get all the cancer, chemo and radiation are still necessary.

He describes the main side effects of treatment – constant dry mouth and changes in taste – as manageable. And he says he was not unhappy to lose 30 pounds.

Although he sounds almost too stoic, he is frank about “the one major issue I tried to ignore … namely, depression.”

“On more than one occasion I burst into a crying session,” he writes. “I’m not talking about the quiet episode with sniffles and a tear or two. I mean full-fledged bawling your eyes out accompanied by nasal discharge and the near inability to speak normally.”

A sensitive subject:
Conspicuously missing from his book, though, is information about head and neck cancer. Over the last 30 years, the epidemiology has changed dramatically in the United States, with a decline in cases related to smoking and alcohol use, and a steady increase in HPV-related cancers. Men are three times more likely than women to develop these malignancies. Of an estimated 63,000 new head and neck cancer diagnoses this year, 11,600 will likely be caused by HPV, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This surge reflects changes in sexual practices, especially oral sex, research suggests. That’s a sensitive issue, as actor Michael Douglas discovered when his candor about his throat cancer and cunnilingus turned him into fodder for tweeters and late-night comics. The thing is, genital strains of HPV are so ubiquitous that almost all sexually active people — not just promiscuous ones — will be infected at some point. It is not clear why, for a fraction of these people, the immune system fails to wipe out the infection.

Becker says he did not wade into this subject in his book because of the scientific uncertainties.

In a recent blog post, he quoted the CDC: “Only a few studies have looked at how people get oral HPV, and some show conflicting results. Some studies suggest that oral HPV may be passed on during oral sex or simply open-mouthed (“French”) kissing, others have not. More research is needed to understand exactly how people get and give oral HPV infections.”

After his cancer recurred, Becker explored his options and entered a National Cancer Institute clinical trial of an experimental immunotherapy. It seems to have slowed, but not stopped, his cancer, which has spread to his lungs.

He is philosophical about his plight.

“I get up each morning feeling fine. It’s not a bad quality of life at the moment,” he said. “And I’ve had just a fabulous life. I’ve worked very hard, but the fruits of those labors were phenomenal. Being able to travel. Being able to give my daughters what they wanted. I wanted them to have a better youth than I had. I’ve got the best wife in the world. I’ve had 25 fabulous years with her. It’s hard to look at my situation and have a lot of self-pity.”

But he does have a hope: “That by sharing this experience freely, I can help create greater awareness for the disease and its impact.”