human papillomavirus

E-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco can put you at a greater risk of oral cancer, says study

Source: www.thehealthsite.com
Author: Sreemoyee Chatterjee

Not just cigarette smokers, those smoking e-cigarettes as well as consuming smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco and more are at greater risk of developing oral cancer, shows a recent study conducted by University of California.

In case you think only cigarette smokers are at a higher risk of getting oral cancer, you are widely mistaken. A recent study has found that a wide majority of non-cigarette tobacco users as well those using electronic cigarettes are exposed to considerable level of carcinogen, as much as a cigarette user is exposed to. Not just that, shockingly smokeless tobacco users were found at a greater exposure to tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNA). The study has been conducted by the scholars from University of California, San Francisco.

Starting from cigarettes to cigar, waterpipes, pipes, marijuana containing cigar to smokeless products like moist snuff, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, snus and other nicotine replacement products can increase your chance of getting oral cancer, revealed the study.

What is Oral cancer?
Belonging to the head and neck cancer group, oral cancer is a type of cancer that grows in mouth or throat tissues and mostly hit the squamous cells of your mouth, tongue and lips. Oral cancer can of several types – lip cancer, tongue cancer, cancer in the inner lining of your cheek, gums, floor of the mouth and hard and soft palate. It is important to go to a dentist for a biannual check-up for early detection of oral cancer, experts say. Due to lack of awareness and adequate check-ups, oral cancer gets detected only after they spread to the lymph nodes of the neck.

The other risk factors
Apart from tobacco consumption, both smoke and smokeless and excessive alcohol consumption, there are several other risk factors that can put you to greater risk of developing oral cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, chronic facial exposure to sun, a former diagnosis of oral cancer, a family history of oral or any other types of cancer, a depleted body immune system, inadequate nutrition, genetic syndromes are other risk factors for oral cancer. Shockingly, being male is another potent risk factor as studies have found males to be at a higher risk of developing oral cancer, twice as likely compared to women.

Changes in cancer staging: what you should know

Source: health.clevelandclinic.org
Author: staff

When you learn you have cancer, you want to know what to expect: How will doctors treat your illness? How effective is treatment likely to be?

Much depends on the way doctors first classify, or “stage,” your cancer, using the official staging manual from the American Joint Committee on Cancer. Staging guidelines continue to evolve as knowledge about individual tumor growth and innovative technologies come into play.

An ever-evolving system
“Historically, we staged cancers according to tumor size, lymph node involvement and the presence of metastases,” says oncologist Dale Shepard, MD, PhD.

“The latest staging manual incorporates new findings on the importance of changes in molecular DNA and tumor genomic profiling. This will affect many patients going forward.”

Among those most impacted by changes in staging are people newly diagnosed with breast cancer; head and neck cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV); or sarcoma.

How staging works
“Staging allows us to stratify patients into groups based on anatomic and other criteria. It gives us a framework for understanding the extent of disease,” Dr. Shepard explains.

Cancers are staged clinically and pathologically:

  • The clinical stage is determined during the initial workup for cancer.
  • The pathologic stage is determined by studying a surgically removed tumor sample under the microscope.

Adds Tumor Registry Manager Kate Tullio, MPH, MS, “Staging helps physicians and other researchers to compare patients with the same types of cancer to each other in a consistent way — so that we might learn more about these cancers and how to effectively treat them.”

Staging allows doctors to determine the best course of treatment for different types of cancer and helps families to understand the prognosis, or likely outcome, of that treatment.

It also allows doctors to offer patients a chance to participate in clinical trials of new therapies targeting their form of cancer.

The impact of DNA changes on breast cancer
In the past, most breast cancer patients with lymph node involvement were automatically classified as stage II or higher, and were often given chemotherapy.

“Previously, physicians considered only tumor size, lymph node involvement and spread of the cancer to distant areas of the body when staging breast cancer,” says Ms. Tullio.

Today, staging has improved with the addition of advanced multi-gene panel testing and specific information on the biology of the tumor.

“This incorporates what we have found clinically: that some patients previously identified with stage II breast cancer did better than others,” says Dr. Shepard. “In essence, patients with HER2-positive disease were more like patients with stage I disease.”

HPV’s effect on head and neck cancers
The classification of head and neck tumors has changed because of advances in genomic profiling.

“We now have a separate system for classifying head and neck cancer caused by HPV infection because we realize that, clinically, it is a different disease,” says Dr. Shepard.

Ms. Tullio notes that patients with head and neck cancers caused by HPV have a better prognosis — living longer, on average, than head and neck cancer patients without HPV.

“Patients with HPV-positive mouth or throat cancers usually respond well to treatment and may need less aggressive therapy than those who are HPV-negative,” she says.

Also new, adds Dr. Shepard, are separate classification systems for soft-tissue cancers called sarcomas. Doctors have found that, based on the primary tumor’s location, sarcomas will behave and respond to treatment differently.

How will these changes affect you?
The impact of these staging changes will be far greater for patients with cancers diagnosed on or after Jan. 1, 2018.

“If your cancer is new, then changes in classification may affect early decisions about your initial care and likely prognosis,” says Dr. Shepard.

If you received a cancer diagnosis before that date, the stage of your tumor will not change, Ms. Tullio notes. However, new data in the manual may allow your doctors to better assess and treat you.

Adds Dr. Shepard, “Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about the new staging systems. It’s important to be sure all the right tests are ordered to accurately assess your cancer.”

Praised West Palm attorney fought for many, but is now fighting for his life

Source: www.mypalmbeachpost.com
Author: Daphne Duret – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

A knock on a door stopped Richard Tendler mid-sentence. His back straightened almost instinctively in his chair, just as it has at the first sign of every verdict. Two decades as a criminal defense attorney in Palm Beach County have taught the 51-year-old West Palm Beach man to never predict how things will go.

“I’ve had cases I thought I won come back guilty,” Tendler had said hours earlier. “Then there were cases I was sure I lost, and the jury would come back not guilty.”

Another certainty: Tendler knew was that he would go home a free man that night, regardless of his client’s fate. This time was different.

Tendler was seated in an examination room at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, where he is one of 10 patients in an exclusive clinical trial for cancer patients whom other doctors have told to prepare to die. Knocking on the door was Dr. Christine Chung, who is treating Tendler and nine others with an immunotherapy regimen as part of a trial that includes 500 patients in the U.S. and around the world.

Chung, the chief of head and neck oncology at Moffitt, was ready to deliver her own verdict — on the results of Tendler’s third six-week cycle. She greeted Tendler’s larger-than-usual entourage that day with polite handshakes and a tight smile.

After the first two cycles, she said, the treatments have cut in half the size of one lesion on Tendler’s lung and slightly shrunk another. A pair of smaller lesions on his liver remained the same size. That much was welcome — though it’s still early in the treatments.

Regardless of whether it’s good or bad news, Tendler has been here before.

By the time he first felt a lump in his throat in December 2015, Tendler was just several months past one of his most high-profile cases. It ended with what was widely considered a great plea deal allowing Boynton Beach mother Heather Hironimus to escape criminal charges for running away with her then-4-year-old son to prevent his father from having him circumcised.

His previous cases ranged from the most tragic to the most bizarre, earning Tendler a reputation as a survivor of the grueling grind of private practice. Among his clients: People involved in deadly car wrecks, a university gunman in the wake of another college shooting, and a teenager charged with killing a goose.

Comforting his mother
Two weeks before Tendler discovered the lump in his throat, he had consoled his mother, Sonia, through a doctor’s tragic prognosis giving her just two months more to live with end-stage pancreatic cancer.

Her sister, his aunt Vera Muller, noticed the lump when he came to visit his mother at her Miami apartment.

“I said, ‘Oh, my God, Richard’ and he said ‘Shhh!’” she said before Tendler’s visit to Moffitt last month, putting her finger to her lips to mimic the gesture her nephew made back then. “He didn’t want his mother to worry.”

Doctors by then had confirmed Tendler’s suspicion. The lump was cancer, brought on by an illness Tendler didn’t know he, too, would soon be diagnosed with.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 79 million Americans had been infected with human papillomavirus, or HPV, as of last year. With 200 strains, most of which carry no symptoms and go away on their own, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the nation.

The strain Tendler contracted at some point in his life was the rare variety that caused his cancer, his doctors informed him. Although there now exists a vaccine for the virus that is recommended for teenage girls and boys alike, no such prevention existed when Tendler was growing up.

On Jan. 25, 2016, Tendler’s 49th birthday, he underwent a nine-hour surgery to remove the cancer from his throat. He had to be on a feeding tube for a month and recovered at his mother’s Miami apartment, with aunt Vera playing nurse to both her sister and her nephew.

Now 75, and moving to South Florida from Tendler’s native Venezuela, Vera Muller remembers her sister died six weeks into Tendler’s recovery. She was 68.

With his grief still fresh, Tendler then went through a grueling round of radiation and chemotherapy, which required him to live on the feeding tube for another four months.

“It was worse than the surgery,” Tendler remembered. “I couldn’t drink water. I couldn’t even swallow a pill.”

Three months later, Tendler returned to the courthouse much thinner and scarred from his surgery, but cancer-free according to his tests. His doctor reassured him that the worst was behind him.

“He told me ‘I’ve never had one come back,’” Tendler remembers.

His did.

In May 2017, doctors noticed a spot on his chest, and eventually discovered three cancerous lesions on his liver. The cancer had spread, or metastasized, the doctors told him.

Tendler remembers one oncologist telling him he only had months to live. The doctor suggested, matter-of-factly, that he prepare for his death.

“That oncologist talked to me like a piece of dirt,” Tendler said.

He visited several others, and although they were more gentle in their delivery, their news was largely the same. The sentence for the defense attorney was death, they told him, and it would be coming soon.

A doctor offers cautious hope
That summer, Tendler visited Chung at Moffitt. Having immigrated to the United States from Korea with her single mother and two brothers as a child, Chung went to medical school and decided she wanted to be an oncologist.

Tendler and Chung soon learned that, while in different professions, they shared similar views and experiences. Like Tendler’s clients, Chung’s patients are a varied group, including former smokers and people like Tendler, who contracted throat cancer from a rare strain of HPV. The common denominator: They all have a right to treatment.

“None of us is guaranteed good health tomorrow. It is a gift,” Chung said.

Tendler, like most criminal defense attorneys, believes every person accused of a crime, no matter how heinous, is entitled to a fair and just journey through the legal system.

Chung received grants from a pair of foundations that paid off all her medical school loans, a fact she says makes her believe her work is to serve the public. Tendler, who started his career as a public defender, understands.

And with Chung, he found not just an advocate for his life but a doctor who Tendler said was the first to really treat him like a human being. Tendler says her presence in his life tops the list of blessings he makes a habit of thanking God for daily.

Chung told him they would fight the three lesions with CT ablation, a form of targeted radiation that successfully obliterated the three spots. But soon afterward, two more lesions appeared on his liver, and another pair of cancer lesions were now in his lungs.

Chung is clear, both in her conversations with Tendler and in an interview on the day he receives his test results, that there is currently no cure for Tendler’s cancer. She calls the current clinical trial a form of palliative care, meant to reduce the cancer’s severity and alleviate Tendler’s symptoms in hopes of keeping him healthy long enough for researchers to find a cure.

The clinical trial, sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, is a blind study in a treatment that involves immunotherapy, a process that stimulates parts of the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer.

All patients in the study receive doses of the immunotherapy agent Nivolumab. Two-thirds of the patients also receive a second drug, and the others receive a placebo.

No one — not even Chung — knows which patients are receiving the second agent, a secret she says is vital to the research to see if the two agents together work better than the single Nivolumab treatment alone.

Tendler’s lesions are not as severe as some of her other patients, Chung says, and after two cycles, the results are promising.

Although he is on pain medication, his treatment has been a breeze compared to his radiation, he said. And the fight for his life has brought with it an unanticipated life lesson.

Tendler, who for 20 years poured his life into his work, is learning how to celebrate.

The rise of HPV-related cancers in men

Source: www.tmc.edu
Author: Alexandra Becker

Scott Courville admired his full beard and round belly in the mirror: He was ready for the upcoming holiday season. It was November 2015 and Courville, who plays Santa Claus in Lafayette, Louisiana, was too excited about his favorite time of year to worry much about the pain developing in his jaw.

By February, though, the ache had worsened and was accompanied by new symptoms: white spots on his right tonsil, difficulty swallowing and lumps in his throat. He finally made his way to a walk-in clinic where he was diagnosed with tonsillitis and prescribed antibiotics.

“They sent me home and said, ‘In two weeks everything should clear up,’” Courville recalled.

But his symptoms only worsened. Courville made an appointment with a local ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist who also diagnosed Courville with tonsillitis. The doctor prescribed more antibiotics and steroids, but two weeks later there were no improvements. Courville was referred to a dentist—“In case they see something we don’t”—but that, too, was a dead end.

Courville’s dentist insisted he return to his ENT, where he ultimately had a CT scan that revealed a mass in his throat. That was June 6, 2016. Two days later, Courville underwent a biopsy. When he awoke from the surgery, his doctor was standing over him.

Courville always gets choked up retelling this part of his story.

“The hardest part for me is always remembering when the doctor said, ‘I’m sorry, but you’ve got cancer.’”

Courville was referred to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where doctors confirmed that he had squamous cell carcinoma of the right tonsil. But there was more: Courville learned that his cancer had been caused by the human papillomavirus—HPV.

11 million men
Courville’s story is becoming increasingly common, with the annual incidence of HPV-related cancers of the throat, tonsils and the base of the tongue in men in the United States now outnumbering cases of cervical cancer in women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A 2017 research paper authored by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health, among others, found the overall prevalence of oral HPV in men in the U.S. to be upwards of 11 million—much higher than previously believed.

“This has implications, because pretty much everyone is exposed to HPV,” said Andrew Sikora, M.D., Ph.D., one of the authors of the paper and vice chair for research and co-director of the Head and Neck Cancer Program at Baylor College of Medicine. “When we’re talking about the prevalence of oral HPV infection, we’re talking about that infection persisting inside the tonsils or on the base of the tongue of these men, and I think that’s what sets you up for cancer later in life—it may happen decades after you were exposed to HPV.”

That lag time, coupled with an absence of symptoms, is part of the reason HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers, also referred to as head and neck cancers, are increasing.

“What makes this cancer interesting is that it’s one of the only cancers in the body that we’re actually seeing more cases of year over year,” explained Ron J. Karni, M.D., who serves as chief of the division of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. “In the U.S., we can expect a certain number of breast cancer cases and lung cancer cases every year, but this is actually starting to look a bit like an epidemic in that we are seeing more every year. It’s alarming.”

Holy grail
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., with an estimated 79 million individuals infected. According to the CDC, HPV is so common that most people who are sexually active will get the virus at some point in their lives if they do not get the HPV vaccine.

The virus is spread through vaginal, anal and oral sexual activity, and often exhibits no signs or symptoms. In many cases, HPV is cleared by the immune system and does not cause health problems, but it can also persist and show up decades later alongside conditions such as genital warts and cancer—including cervical cancer, anal cancer and oropharyngeal cancers. For reasons not well understood, oropharyngeal cancers predominately affect men.

Currently, there is no annual screening test for men to determine whether they have the virus. Women, on the other hand, are advised to get regular pap smears.

The Papanicolaou test, commonly known as the pap smear, involves collecting cells from inside a woman’s cervix to detect pre-cancerous changes. It is performed during a woman’s annual exam and has been widely credited for detecting early signs of HPV-related cervical cancer and saving countless lives. No such screening test has been successfully developed for oropharyngeal cancer—another reason cited for its steady rise.

“We’re at a huge disadvantage,” said Sikora, who, in addition to his research, treats patients at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. “The pap smear, in terms of global health impact, is probably one of the best, most cost-effective things ever invented in terms of just the sheer number of women who have not had cancers because of it. We have nothing like that for men.”

Sikora explained that anatomy is, in part, to blame. Whereas the cervix is easily sampled, the tonsils are full of “nooks and crannies,” he said, and scientists have yet to develop a reliable technique for obtaining a representative sample of cells inside the throat, tonsils and back of the tongue.

“It’s sort of a holy grail for researchers in the field,” Sikora said. “It would be a game-changer in terms of prevention and early detection of cancer.”

Scientists at MD Anderson, where Courville was treated, may be closing in on some answers. Researchers, including Erich M. Sturgis, M.D., MPH, the Christopher & Susan Damico Chair in Viral Associated Malignancies, are currently conducting a clinical trial for an antibody test that could be used to screen for HPV-related throat cancer.

The HOUSTON study, an acronym for “HPV-related Oropharyngeal and Uncommon Cancers Screening Trial of Men,” is looking to recruit 5,000 men ages 50 to 64 years to provide blood and saliva samples for serologic HPV testing and oral HPV testing, respectively. If a subject is found to have a positive antibody test, he will be asked to participate in a second phase of the study, which includes an intensive screening program run through MD Anderson’s oral pre-cancer clinic.

“A researcher at Arizona State University, Dr. Karen Anderson, developed a serologic test that predicts extremely well the risk for HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer,” Sturgis explained. “We have been able to show that serum antibodies to HPV early proteins, which are rare in the general population, are markers for oropharyngeal cancer. Specifically, we found that those who had antibodies to certain HPV antigens have a greater than 450-fold higher risk of oropharyngeal cancer compared with those who do not have the antibodies.”

The hope is that this study will reveal that serological HPV antibody testing is an effective screening tool for HPV-related cancer in men: the equivalent to a pap smear.

A lump in the neck
If and when HPV-related cancer does develop, men often notice a pain in their jaw or throat, trouble swallowing, change or loss of voice that lasts more than a week or two, a sore spot on the tongue and, most often, a lump in the neck.

“There’s often a very small, primary tumor, which is the tumor that is in the tongue or in the tonsil, and it travels early to the lymph nodes,” Sikora explained. “Depending on what your neck looks like, lymph nodes can get pretty big before they become noticeable. But a lump in the neck is by far the most common symptom, and unfortunately it’s often detected much later than we would like.”

Even more troubling, many individuals who have these symptoms are commonly misdiagnosed and handed antibiotics, as in Courville’s case.

“The most important message I can convey is that if you have a lump in your neck, go see an ear, nose and throat doctor,” Karni said, emphasizing the importance of an informed diagnosis and specialized care.

Treatment for oropharyngeal cancers varies depending on the case and often involves a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, as well as some form of combined modality therapy such as radiation and chemotherapy. In the future, Sturgis sees novel therapies, including immunotherapy options, changing the landscape of treatment protocols.

Karni hopes UTHealth’s dedicated HPV-related throat cancer program will carry patients through the entire arc of treatment by offering minimally invasive robotic surgery for qualifying cases, as well as annual community-wide screening clinics, rehabilitation therapists, and numerous other specialists.

“We want to think about cancer the way Target thinks about shopping or the way the best airlines think about flying,” Karni said. “We designed a program that is patient-centered. We asked, ‘What does the patient need on their fourth week of radiation? What do they need on their third month post-radiation? How can we get that into one clinic space?’ It’s a large team and it’s all centered around this one disease.”

47th in the nation
In 2006, an HPV vaccine named Gardasil hit the market. It was originally intended to prevent HPV in females and, ultimately, HPV-related cervical cancer. But as scientists learned more about HPV—first that males could be carriers and later that it causes cancer in men, as well—public health professionals and clinicians unanimously recommended the vaccine to everyone. The CDC recommends all young women through the age of 26 and all young men through age 21 receive two doses for the vaccine to be effective.

And it is. A recent report published in May by Cochrane, a global independent network of clinical researchers and health care professionals, concluded that the HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer in young women, especially when they are vaccinated between the ages of 15 and 26.

Which begs the question: Will the vaccine protect young men against the development of oropharyngeal cancers?

“There is a lot more data on cervical cancer in women and the vaccine than there is on head and neck cancer in men and the vaccine, but what data exists suggests that it is going to be a very effective intervention,” Sikora said.

Yet despite scientific evidence that prophylactic HPV vaccination of children and young adults will drastically reduce HPV-related cancers, vaccination rates in the U.S. remain alarmingly low—and Texas ranks 47th. Even more, several generations did not have the vaccine available to them and are currently at risk for HPV-related cancer.

As Karni said, it is alarming.

“Because the median age of oropharynx cancer related to HPV is about 55 and, in some studies, 60, and because the vaccine does not seem to work in individuals who have already been exposed, the benefits of vaccination on HPV-related cancer will not be realized for several decades,” Sturgis said. “Even if we vaccinate 100 percent of our boys and girls tomorrow, we have a whole generation or two who are at risk for this cancer and cannot do anything about it.”

Courville endured six rounds of chemotherapy and 33 daily rounds of radiation to treat his cancer. He lost a year of his life, 100 pounds, his taste buds and salivary glands, and can no longer grow his full beard— but his therapy was successful. He has now made it his life’s mission to inform the public about the importance of the vaccine as well as ongoing advocacy and research surrounding HPV-related cancers.

“If you can educate the public and educate the parents, they will vaccinate their kids,” Courville said. “And if we can vaccinate this generation, we could eliminate these types of cancers.”

With oral cancer on the rise, dentists can play an important role

Source: http://exclusive.multibriefs.com
Author: Tammy Adams

Today’s dental professionals routinely see and deal with many issues and conditions that were not so common just a few short decades ago. For example, there has been a marked increase in the incidence of oral cancer in the United States, sparking the need for regular oral cancer screening as part of a preventive dental checkup. This additional screening is now routinely performed in many dental practices across the nation.

The American Cancer Society estimates that around 50,000 Americans are infected with oral cancer each year. 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 risen (especially in men), and researchers have concluded that this is likely caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease.

Early diagnosis makes a difference
Oral cancer is often only discovered when the cancer has metastasized to another location, most commonly the lymph nodes of the neck. Prognosis at this stage of discovery is significantly worse than when it is caught in a localized intraoral area.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, the best way to screen for HPV-related oral and oropharyngeal cancer is through a visual and tactile exam given by a medical or dental professional, who will also perform an oral history taking to ask about signs and symptoms that cover things that are not visible.

Most of the symptoms of a developing HPV-positive infection are discovered by asking questions, using a test, a light or other device.

ADA supports dental industry with this growing challenge
In 2017, a panel of experts convened by the American Dental Association (ADA) Council on Scientific Affairs published a clinical practice guideline called the “Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation of Potentially Malignant Disorders in the Oral Cavity.”

The goal of this guideline is to inform dentists, orthodontists and other dental professionals about triage tools for evaluating lesions, including potentially malignant disorders, in the oral cavity. If you’re a dentist or an orthodontist, the ADA offers the following considerations concerning the diagnosis of oral and oropharyngeal cancers:

  • Clinicians should obtain an updated medical, social and dental history as well as perform an intraoral and extraoral conventional visual and tactile examination in all adult patients.
  • For patients with suspicious lesions, clinicians should immediately perform a biopsy of the lesion or refer the patient to a specialist.
  • Salivary and light-based tools are not recommended for evaluating lesions for malignancy.

If you are a dental professional and want to learn more about the dental industry’s role in addressing the rising occurrence of oral cancer, visit the ADA’s Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer page.

April, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

What’s the link between HPV and head and neck cancer?

Source: blogs.bcm.edu
Author: Dr. Michael Scheurer

As a molecular epidemiologist, I’ve been conducting research on human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers since my dissertation work in 2003. While working with the clinical faculty here at Baylor College of Medicine, I’ve heard many questions lately about the possibility of the HPV vaccine “helping treat” head and neck cancer (HNC).

It’s important to know the link between HPV and HNC because patients with HPV-positive tumors often have better survival rates than those with HPV-negative tumors. Check out these frequently asked questions to learn more about HPV and HNC.

What is HPV?

  • HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can infect the oral cavity, tonsils, back of throat, anus, and genitals.
  • There are many types of HPV. Some types can cause cancer and other types can cause warts.
  • HPV infection is very common in the U.S. with more than 50 percent of adults being infected at some point in their lifetime.
  • There is no treatment for HPV infection.
  • For some people, their HPV infection naturally clears while others develop cancer after many years.

What is oropharyngeal cancer?

  • Oropharyngeal cancer occurs in the tonsils and back of throat.
  • In the U.S., HPV now causes most oropharyngeal cancers.
  • Most doctors would recommend that oropharyngeal cancers be tested for HPV.
  • Smoking and alcohol use can also increase risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer.

How did I get HPV infection in my mouth or throat?

  • The most likely route of exposure is by oral sex, although other routes may exist.
  • Performing oral sex and having many oral sex partners can increase your chances of oral HPV infection.
  • HPV is not transmitted casually by kissing on the cheek or sharing a drink with someone.
  • We do not know for sure if HPV is transmitted by open-mouth or “French” kissing.

What does it mean as a HNC patient if I have HPV in my tumor?

  • Many studies have shown that oropharyngeal cancer patients with HPV in their tumor have a better outcome than people without HPV.
  • These patients tend to respond better to both chemotherapy and radiation treatment for HNC. Appropriately selected patients also have excellent outcomes after surgery.

Is the HPV vaccine for me?

  • The HPV vaccines work by preventing people from getting new HPV infections.
  • These vaccines do not treat HPV infection or the cancers that HPV cause.
  • The vaccines are currently recommended for people ages nine to 26 years old.
April, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

HPV is causing an oral cancer epidemic in men by outwitting natural defenses

Source: www.philly.com
Author: Marie McCullough, staff writer

Five years ago, when actor Michael Douglas candidly revealed that his throat cancer was linked to having oral sex, two things happened.

He made headlines that mortified his family. And he helped publicize the fact that a pervasive, sexually transmitted virus called HPV was unleashing an epidemic of oral cancer among men.

Since then, scientists have made headway in figuring out why HPV, the human papillomavirus, has this glaring gender bias. Men are four times more likely than women to be diagnosed with oral cancer, a hard-to-detect, hard-to-treat disease that has overtaken cervical cancer as the most common HPV-related malignancy in the United States.

To be sure, changes in sexual norms over the last few generations have played a role in this alarming trend. But research increasingly shows the real problem is something men have practically no control over: their immune response.

Compared with women, men are more likely to get infected with HPV — including “high-risk” cancer-causing strains. They also are less able to wipe out infection on their own, and more likely to get reinfected. The reasons are unclear.

“There is good evidence that men acquire oral infections more readily than women, even if they have similar sex practices,” said Ashish A. Deshmukh, a University of Florida HPV researcher. “And more than the acquisition, it’s the persistence of the virus. The clearance rate is not that fast in men.”

Michael Becker of Yardley has stepped up as the face of this immunological inequity. The 49-year-old former biotech executive is health-conscious, clean-living, happily married for 26 years – and battling terminal oropharyngeal cancer, the medical term for malignancies in parts of the mouth and throat.

He’s also battling the misconceptions and ignorance that keep too many parents from protecting their pubescent children — especially boys — against HPV-driven cancers. Two shots. That’s all it takes for the leading vaccine, Gardasil, to prevent most cervical cancers, less common genital malignancies, and the disease that is killing Becker.

“I can’t tell you how many emails I got from parents after the CBS segment,” he said, referring to a national television interview last month. “They said, ‘What do you mean this vaccine is for boys?’ and ‘What do you mean oral cancer incidence has eclipsed cervical cancer?’ ”

An inescapable virus
HPV is a family of more than 100 virus types that can live in the flat, thin cells on the surface of the skin, cervix, vagina, anus, vulva, penis, mouth, and throat. The virus is spread through contact with infected skin, mucous membranes, and bodily fluids. Some types can be passed during intercourse or — as Douglas pointed out — oral sex. While virtually all sexually active people will get infected at some point, the virus is usually wiped out by the immune system without so much as a symptom.

But not always.

In the cervix, persistent infection with high-risk HPV types can lead to precancerous changes that, left alone, slowly turn malignant. Fortunately, the Pap smear enables the detection and removal of abnormal cells before cancer develops. What’s more, age-related changes in cervical cells reduce the risk that HPV will take hold there as women get older.

No such screening test exists for oropharyngeal sites – the tongue, soft palate, tonsils, the throat behind the nasal cavity – and symptoms usually don’t appear until cancer is advanced. Becker, for example, had metastatic disease by the time he noticed a lump under his jaw line in late 2015.

Traditionally, smoking and heavy alcohol use are the big risk factors for oral cancer, but the non-HPV tumors linked to these bad habits have been declining in recent years. HPV-related tumors, in contrast, have increased more than 300 percent over the last 20 years. The virus is now found in 70 percent of all new oral cancers.

About 13,200 new HPV oral cancers are diagnosed in U.S. men each year, compared with 3,200 in women, according to federal data. Treatment — surgery, chemotherapy, radiation — can have disfiguring, disabling side effects. About half of late-stage patients die within five years.

Natural defenses go awry
Oral HPV infection rates are skewed by gender, just like the resulting cancers. The latest national estimates of this disparity, published in October, come from Deshmukh and his University of Florida colleagues. They used a federal health survey that collected DNA specimens to estimate that 7.3 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women have oral infections with high-risk HPV types. That translates to 7 million men and 1.4 million women.

The chance of oral infection increases for women as well as men who have simultaneous genital HPV infections or a history of many sex partners, but male infection rates still far surpass female rates.

Patti Gravitt, an HPV researcher at George Washington University, believes these estimates are a bit oversimplified because women counted as uninfected may actually have undetectably low virus levels, or HPV may be hiding in a dormant state in their cells.

Still, Gravitt said the study is in line with others that suggest “men are more susceptible to HPV viral infection than women.”

In women, an HPV infection usually sets off the body’s defense mechanisms. The immune system makes antibodies that kill off the invader, then immune cells remain on guard, ready to attack if the virus reappears.

But in men, something goes awry. The HIM study — for HPV in Men — documented this by collecting genital, anal, and oral samples from 4,100 unvaccinated men in Florida, Mexico and Brazil between 2005 and 2009. The samples were tested for the presence of two high-risk HPV types and two that cause genital warts.

Among 384 men who developed infections during a 24-month period, only 8 percent produced antibodies. But this response rate varied depending on the site of infection; none of the small number of orally infected men produced antibodies.

Rather than putting the immune system on guard and protecting men from the virus, infection sharply increased the chance of getting infected again with the exact same HPV type. And many men who got reinfected were celibate at the time.

How could this be? Anna R. Giuliano, the researcher at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., who led the HIM study, said recurring infections may be due to reactivation of dormant virus, or to auto-inoculation – the man spreads infection from one part of his body to another. Or to something else entirely.

While the scientific understanding of this puzzle is evolving, one implication is clear. “HPV vaccination is the only reliable method to ensure immune protection against new HPV infections and subsequent disease in males,” Giuliano and her co-authors declared in a recent paper.

Becker hammers that message – when he is not being hammered by chemotherapy – using his self-published memoir and his blog. This week’s blog gave a shout-out to Sunday’s first-ever International HPV Awareness Day, declared by Giuliano and other members of the International Papillomavirus Society.

Becker realizes that the novelty of the vaccine, the complexity of HPV, and its link to sex are obstacles to immunization. But he focuses on the life-saving aspect.

“Parents are being asked to vaccinate their 11-year-old child and they can’t imagine 30 or 40 years down the line, it will prevent cancer,” Becker said. “If you don’t know it’s connected to six cancers, you’re not going to care. So it really should be cast as an anti-cancer vaccine.”

March, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

HHC study supports web-based care plans for head, neck cancer patients

Source: www.hartfordbusiness.com
Author: John Stearns

A joint study by the Hartford HealthCare (HHC) Cancer Institute and the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center has demonstrated benefits of a web-based care plan for patients with head and neck cancer as a tool to better cope with side effects of treatment.

A web-based tool to help patients with head and neck cancer better deal with effects of their cancer treatment has proved beneficial to patients and doctors, according to a HHC doctor involved in developing the tool and studying its effectiveness.

“The compelling reason to do this work is because head and neck cancer has changed,” said Dr. Andrew Salner, medical director of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at Hartford Hospital, HHC’s lead doctor on the joint study with MSK.

Head and neck cancer, once mostly associated with heavy drinkers and smokers who had other chronic diseases, is showing up more in younger and healthier patients, he said. That’s because of the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV), now the leading cause of the cancers that often target the tonsils and back of the tongue.

HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. HPV is equally divided among males and females, the latter who’ve been getting vaccinated against HPV to prevent cervical cancer, but oral cancers are happening more prevalently and are appearing in males and females, Salner said. As such, boys and girls are now recommended for the vaccine before they become sexually active to hopefully prevent future disease, he said.

Immunization rates were 38 percent for boys and 50 percent for girls in 2016, Salner said.

Most people with HPV will not develop cancer, according to HHC, but for those who do, treatment outcomes are good, but the effects of head and neck cancer treatment can cause difficulty with taste and swallowing, dental problems, jawbone injury, underactive thyroid and other issues, Salner said.

The study of 43 head and neck cancer patients in Hartford and New York tracked the benefit of a web-based care plan tailored to their specific cancer, treatment and side effects. Historically, so-called survivorship care plans were fairly generic in addressing issues patients might or might not encounter, Salner said.

“This study was unique because it personalized the side effects for the tumor site and the treatment for each patient,” Salner said. It offers specific effects to watch for, some of which may not show up for years after treatment, ways to help prevent problems, cope with treatment side effects and timelines for follow-up medical screenings.

“The patients really appreciated all components of the care plan,” which also included a 60- to 90-minute meeting to review with medical staff.

HHC and MSK are talking with the National Cancer Institute to do a much wider study of the care plan, Salner said. He also wants to examine how to scale up the plan for larger populations and integrate it into patients’ medical records.

Salner and Dr. David Pfister, chief of head and neck oncology services at the MSK Cancer Center, will discuss the study and link between HPV and head and neck cancer in a talk this afternoon, from 4 to 5, at the Hartford Hospital Wellness Center at Blue Back Square, West Hartford.

February, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

Should kids be required to get the HPV vaccine?

Source: www.forbes.com
Author: Bruce Y. Lee

If a bill recently introduced in Florida passes, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine would be mandatory for adolescents attending public school in the state. Currently, the vaccine is mandatory for boys and girls in Rhode Island and just girls in Virgina and Washington, DC. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

Florida isn’t kidding about low human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates. If you are a kid enrolled in a Florida public school, come July 1, 2018, you may be required to get the HPV vaccine. That is if you are old enough and if a bill now being debated in the Florida state legislature ends up passing.

If it gets through, Senate Bill 1558 would then become known as the “Women’s Cancer Prevention Act”, which is a much easier name to remember and also reflects some major benefits of the HPV vaccine. As the National Cancer Institute explains, HPV vaccine can help prevent not only cervical cancer but also many vaginal and vulvar cancers. In fact, two types of HPV (16 and 18) cause around 70% of cervical cancers. But just because you don’t have a vagina, cervix, and vulva doesn’t mean that you are in the clear. HPV is responsible for about 95% of anal cancers, 70% of oropharyngeal (the middle part of the throat) cancers, and 35% of penile cancers. Thus, the “Women’s Cancer Prevention Act” is really a “Cancer Prevention Act.”

Regardless, Florida State Senator José Javier Rodríguez (D-Miami) filed this bill on January 4 in an effort to boost Florida’s not so great HPV vaccination rates. According to the just-released Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) Health of America Report, only 29.0% of adolescents in Florida got the first dose of the HPV vaccine and only 7.3% got all doses in the series as of 2016. Those numbers are lower than the national average (34.4% got the first dose) but not the worst in the country.

New Jersey was the worst (not in general as a state but in terms of HPV vaccination rates). Based on the BCBSA report, as of 2016, only 20.6% of adolescents in New Jersey had gotten the HPV vaccine by age 13 and only 3.4% had completed the series. The Health of America report was the result of an analysis of medical claims data from 2010 through 2016 of over 1.3 million BCBSA commercially-insured adolescents across the country. The analysis considered vaccination to be on time if performed between the adolescent’s 10th and 13th birthdays, corresponding with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations of 11 to 12 year olds getting the vaccine.

Of course, the analysis did not include all adolescents in America. As BCBSA Chief Medical Officer Trent Haywood, MD, JD, explained, “the analysis represented the commercial population and didn’t include Medicaid populations. Also, to be included in the analysis, an adolescent had to be continuously enrolled with BCBS.” But studying such a large population is a pretty good shot at trying to figure what’s going on with shots and adolescents nationwide.

The report also showed that girls were better than boys (again, not in general, but in terms of HPV vaccination rates). In 2016, 37% of girls had received the first dose of the HPV vaccines by age 13 compared to 32%.

The best state of the bunch? Rhode Island with 57% of adolescents having received their first dose by age 13. Not coincidentally Rhode Island is the only state requiring HPV vaccine for both male and female students, starting with the first dose by 7th grade. Virginia and Washington, DC, have requirements just for females.

The good news is that nationwide vaccination rates steadily rose from 22% getting the first dose by age 13 in 2013 to 34% in 2016. But why are vaccination rates still well below 50% in most states? A BCBSA-commissioned survey of over 700 parents of adolescents aged 10-13 revealed the following top three reasons for parents not vaccinating their child against HPV:

  • Being concerned about adverse side effects (59.4%)
  • Not thinking their child is at risk (23.6%)
  • Not knowing their child needed an HPV vaccination (15.7%)

Is requiring the HPV vaccine the solution? One argument against making the HPV vaccine mandatory is that people should be allowed freedom of choice. When Rhode Island first introduced its requirement, protests resulted various groups such as parents, a 2,400-member plus Facebook group, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, the counter-argument is that freedom of choice does not always hold when in the words of Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” You aren’t free to run up and down the aisle of an airplane naked and screaming because the needs of other on the plane outweigh the needs of you. Similarly, the HPV vaccine could help slow and even stop the transmission of HPV throughout the population, which can result in cancers that not only affect the cancer victims but also society by adding to health care costs.

Here is a Today show segment on the HPV vaccine:

Also, when a child doesn’t get vaccinated, it is usually because of the parent’s choice and not the child’s. Could making the vaccine mandatory in fact be protecting the child?

Another argument used by some is that the HPV vaccine has adverse effects. There are websites claiming that HPV vaccine can cause “crippling side effects” and “death.” But many of these scarier claims are not supported by rigorous scientific evidence. (Note: there are also websites that say that the Earth is flat, Elvis was an alien, and the government controls the weather). While nothing is completely safe (e.g., even a chocolate chip cookie in the right situation could do some real damage) and all vaccines do have their risks, the risks of the HPV vaccine are comparatively very low and far outweighed by the potential benefits as indicated by the CDC.

As I wrote before for Forbes, some have argued that the HPV vaccine is a “gateway to sex” and thus making it mandatory would increase the number of teenagers having sex and encourage promiscuity. However, this goes counter to the recent trend of teenagers delaying when they first have sex and suggests that teenagers would not have sex if it weren’t for that darn HPV vaccine. A related argument is that the HPV vaccine would give teens a false sense of security that they are protected against all sexually transmitted infections, leading them to not practice safe sex. However, raising awareness of what the HPV vaccine actually does could help overcome this concern.

All of this does not necessarily mean that making HPV vaccination mandatory is the solution. However, what then is the solution to a majority of adolescents still not getting vaccinated (at least by age 13 and when sexual activity for some begin)? As Haywood described, this is a situation in which many are “not taking full advantage of preventive measures. A big issue is lack of awareness of the HPV vaccine and its benefits.” HPV vaccine awareness campaigns may help push up vaccination rates, but by how much?

The wonderfully straight-forward and transparent world of politics will help determine whether Senate Bill 1558 becomes a law in Florida. A similar bill failed to pass in 2011. But things have changed since 2011, in good ways and bad.

February, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

HPV leads to increase In head and neck cancer In men

Source: www.nbcdfw.com
Author: Bianca Castro

The number of men diagnosed with head and neck cancer caused by human papillomavirus has skyrocketed. This report found that 11 million men and 3.2 million women in the United States are infected with some type of oral HPV and oncologists say it’s leading to more head and neck cancer in men.

“From the 1970’s to today, the prevalence of this HPV-related head and neck cancer has increased by three to five percent per year from then until now, and it is continuing that same rate,” said Oncologist Jerry Barker, Jr., M.D. at Texas Oncology.

“This is a silent epidemic. Most patients who are exposed to this virus, they don’t know it. They’ll never have symptoms from it, but some of those patients will move on to develop a cancer,” said Dr. Barker.

Jeff Busby, of Weatherford, is one of those patients. The aerospace engineer and owner of Busby Quarter Horses says he was diagnosed with throat cancer in February of 2016. His wife Andrea, who documented their journey here, says they were both shocked.

“We were just busy living life. You don’t ever think that shoe is going to drop,” said Andrea.

Jeff says the symptoms began as pain in his ear which lead to pain in his throat. Nine months later, he had a biopsy done on what was a mass in his neck.

“I had just been toughing it out and my partner said, ‘hey, you can’t just tough these kinds of things out. You’ve got to go get this checked out,'” said Jeff.

“It was the cancer putting pressure on and radiating nerve pain to the ear. There was nothing wrong with the ear whatsoever,” said Jeff.

A biopsy revealed Jeff had throat cancer caused by the human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted infection.

Jeff was likely exposed in his teens or 20s, but now decades later, created a cancer with one of the most gruesome treatment protocols. He needed surgery to remove his bottom teeth and part of his jaw, 35 radiation treatments and six rounds of chemotherapy.

“I couldn’t let any of my energy go towards feeling sorry for myself because I had to have every amount of energy I had to beat this thing,” said Jeff.

Jeff had never heard of HPV before, while Andrea says she thought it was linked to only cervical cancer.

While pap smears screen for cervical cancer, there is no screening for hpv-related head and neck cancer and that may be part of the reason rates of hpv-related head and neck cancer has surpassed the rate of hpv-related cervical cancer.

There is way to stop the epidemic. The HPV vaccine is recommended for children as early as 11-years-old and young adults as old as 26 years of age. However, according to this study, in Texas, only 35 percent of children get the vaccine.

“Somewhere along the way, these vaccines developed the idea that they had to do with human sexuality and preventing a sexually transmitted disease, but in reality, they are designed to prevent cancer. These are cancer vaccines,” said Dr. Barker.

“If you could just see what some of our patients have to go through to cure one of these cancers, you would run to get the needle in the arm to prevent that from happening to one of your children.”

At 55, Jeff never had the chance to benefit from the vaccine, approved for use in 2006. He’s now cancer free and in some ways, he says, life is better than before cancer.

“I thank God for this challenge and I still wouldn’t change it today. I wouldn’t take it all away because I didn’t think I could be closer to the Lord or to my wife and I certainly have a much better relationship with both,” said Jeff.

He and Andrea are focused on raising vaccination rates and preventing the kind of cancer battle they fought from from happening to someone else.

“There are so many parents that even hear about but still choose not to do it. It’s beyond me. I can’t understand that,” said Jeff.

“Whether it gets a kid vaccinated or somebody sitting on their couch goes, ‘I have ear pain when I swallow. I should go to the doctor.’ That’s why we are doing this,” said Andrea.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that most Americans have some type of HPV strain but not all strains lead to cancer. Some of the symptoms are head and neck cancer include ear pain, difficulty swallowing and a painless lump on the side of the neck.

January, 2018|Oral Cancer News|