radiation

Complex cancer decisions, no easy answers

Source: blogs.biomedcentral.com
Author: Jeffrey Liu

With the many different options now available for the treatment of cancer, it can be very difficult for both clinicians and patients to decide on the best possible treatment strategy, particularly when faced with a complicated cancer. In this blog, Dr Jeffrey C. Liu reflects on the challenges encountered in cancer decision making, particularly when presented with difficult cases.

When treating cancer, sometimes the treatment decisions are straightforward and unambiguous. For example, surgery is the treatment of choice for an early, uncomplicated tongue cancer. However, many times, the recommendation for cancer treatment is not straightforward and requires combination treatment – one or more of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

As a head and neck cancer surgeon, I work with a team to make these treatment decisions, and usually team consensus is achieved. However, when we are faced with the choice of multiple treatments that all have the same chance of cure available, it seems to result in a never ending discussion amongst our team.

Take for example an advanced tonsil cancer. These cancers can sometimes be removed first with surgery, a process which removes both the primary cancer and the lymph nodes in the neck. Then, depending on the pathology results, patients may need radiation treatment, chemoradiation or sometimes no further treatment at all. Meanwhile, chemoradiation alone, and no surgery, is an excellent option. Whether the patient receives surgery or no surgery, the chance of cure is pretty much the same. However, based on the need for additional treatment after surgery, the patient may have better, equivalent, or worse function than chemoradiation alone.

How then can a patient make a decision with imperfect data? I wish I could help my patients better with these complex decisions. Most patients will make this decision only once in their lives. With the increased emphasis on patient autonomy, there is sometimes a feeling to just “present the options and let the patient decide.”

However, when a group of smart experienced doctors who all treat the same cancer, cannot reach an agreement, how is a patient with no experience expected to make the right decision? There is not enough time to explain to patients the observations of hundreds of such decisions and their thousands of outcomes. Some patients are so overwhelmed by the decision, that they just want someone to tell them what to do. Others have so many questions and concerns that they get lost in the details and paralyzed by the process. I don’t know the right answer for such patients.

Unfortunately, there is no option but to choose a treatment strategy and move forward. We all carry the hope that one day, with more research and better understanding, such complex decisions for the treatment of cancer, will become the easy ones.

October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Penn surgeons become world’s first to test glowing dye for cancerous lymph nodes

Source: www.phillyvoice.com
Author: Michael Tanenbaum, PhillyVoice Staff

Surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania have achieved a global first with the use of a fluorescent dye that identifies cancerous cells in lymph nodes during head and neck cancer procedures.

The study, led by otorhinolaryngologist Jason G. Newman, seeks to test the effectiveness of intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI), a technique that illuminates tumors to provide real-time surgical guidance.

More than 65,000 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancers in 2017, accounting for approximately 4 percent of all cancers in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 75 percent of these cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol use, followed by human papillomavirus (HPV) as a growing source for their development.

Common areas affected by these cancers include the mouth, throat, voice box, sinuses and salivary glands, with typical treatments including a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Lymph nodes, which act as filters for the immune system, are often among the first organs affected by head and neck cancers as they spread or resurface. Initial surgeries may leave microscopic cancerous cells undetected in the lymphoid tissue, heightening the risk that a patient’s condition will return after the procedure.

“By using a dye that makes cancerous cells glow, we get real-time information about which lymph nodes are potentially dangerous and which ones we can leave alone,” Newman said. “That not only helps us remove more cancer from our patients during surgery, it also improves our ability to spare healthy tissue.”

With the aid of a fluorescent dye, surgeons are able to key in on suspicious tissue without removing or damaging otherwise healthy areas. Previously adopted for other disease sites in the lungs and brain, the practice now allows Newman’s team to experiment with indocyanine green (ICG), an FDA-approved contrast agent that responds to blood flow.

Newman explained that since tumor cells retain the dye longer than most other tissues, administering the dye prior to surgery singles out the areas where cancer cells are present.

The current trial at Penn will enable researchers to determine whether ICG is the most suitable dye for head and neck cancers and provide oncologists with a deeper understanding of how cancer spreads in the lymph nodes.

October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Blood test for HPV may help predict risk in cancer patients

Source: www.newswise.com
Author: University of North Carolina Health Care System

A blood test for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, may help researchers forecast whether patients with throat cancer linked to the sexually transmitted virus will respond to treatment, according to preliminary findings from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

HPV can cause oropharyngeal cancer, which is a cancer of the throat behind the mouth, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. Studies have shown that patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer have better outcomes than patients whose cancer is not linked to the virus.

Preliminary findings presented at this year’s American Society for Radiation Oncology Annual Meeting suggest a genetic test for HPV16 in the blood could be useful to help assess risk for patients, and could help identify patients suitable for lower treatment doses.

“Our work on this blood test is ongoing, but we are optimistic that ‘liquid biopsy’ tests such as ours may be useful in the personalization of therapy for many patients with HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer,” said the study’s senior author Gaorav P. Gupta, MD, PhD, UNC Lineberger member and assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology.

To avoid over-treating patients and to spare them from toxic treatment side effects, UNC Lineberger’s Bhisham Chera, MD, an associate professor in the radiation oncology department, led studies testing whether favorable-risk patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer can be treated successfully with lower doses of radiation and chemotherapy. A phase II clinical trial using this de-intensified regimen have shown “excellent” cancer control, Chera said.

The researchers used a number of selection criteria to identify patients who can benefit from lower-doses: patients had to be positive for HPV, and they had to have smoked fewer than 10 pack years. Chera said this system is not perfect, however. The researchers have seen cancer recur in non-smoking patients as well as “excellent” cancer control in longtime smokers.

“This has led us to question whether we can get better prognostication with other biomarkers,” Chera said.

They developed a test that can detect HPV16 circulating in the blood, and found that circulating HPV16 DNA was detectable using the test in the majority of a group of 47 favorable-risk oropharyngeal cancer patients.

In a finding that seems counterintuitive, they discovered that very low or undetectable HPV16 pretreatment levels in their blood actually had higher risk of persistent or recurrent disease for chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In contrast, patients with high pretreatment levels of HPV16 in their blood had 100 percent disease control.

They hypothesized that, potentially, the patients with undetectable/low pre-treatment HPV16 levels in the blood may have different, more radiation/chemotherapy resistant cancers.

“Our current theory is that these patients with low or undetectable levels of HPV16 have a different genetic makeup—one that is perhaps less driven purely by HPV, and thus potentially less sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation,” Gupta said. “We are performing next generation sequencing on these patients to search for additional genetic markers that may give us a clue regarding why they have a worse prognosis.”

They also identified a subset of patients who rapidly cleared the HPV16 from their blood. Researchers hypothesize that they could use their findings to further stratify patients who may be eligible for lower intensity treatment.

“A tantalizing – and yet currently untested – hypothesis is whether this subset of ultra-low risk patients may be treated with even lower doses of chemoradiotherapy,” Gupta said.

October, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Halving radiation therapy for HPV-related throat cancer offers fewer side effects, similar outcomes

Source: www.eurekalert.org
Author: Mayo Clinic press release

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that a 50 percent reduction in the intensity and dose of radiation therapy for patients with HPV-related throat cancer reduced side effects with no loss in survival and no decrease in cure rates. Results of a phase II study were presented today at the 59th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology in San Diego by Daniel Ma, M.D. a radiation oncologist at Mayo Clinic.

“A common approach for treating HPV-related throat cancer is a combination of surgery followed by daily radiation therapy for six to 6½ weeks,” says Dr. Ma. “However, the radiation treatment can cause a high degree of side effects, including altered taste, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, stiff neck and damage to the jaw bone.” Dr. Ma says that patients with HPV-related throat cancer tend to be young and, once treated, are likely to live a long time with possibly life-altering side effects from the standard treatment. “The goal of our trial was to see if an aggressive reduction of radiation therapy (two weeks of radiation twice daily) could maintain excellent cure rates, while significantly reducing posttreatment side effects, improving quality of life and lowering treatment costs.”

Researchers followed 80 patients with HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer with no evidence of residual disease following surgery and a smoking history of 10 or fewer pack years. That’s the number of years smoking multiplied by the average packs of cigarettes smoked per day.

At two years following the aggressively de-escalated treatment, the rate of tumor control in the oropharynx (throat) and surrounding region was 95 percent. Of the 80 patients in the trial, only three experienced a local cancer recurrence. One patient experienced a regional cancer recurrence. Patient quality of life largely improved or did not change following treatment, except for some dry mouth.

“Patients in our trial had a very dramatic reduction in side effects, compared with standard treatment,” says Dr. Ma. “For example, no patient in our trial needed a feeding tube placed during dose-reduced treatment; whereas, close to a third of patients had feeding tubes placed with traditional radiation therapy doses on other recent clinical trials.” Dr. Ma says the reduction in side effects did not lead to any reduction in cure rate, as survival rates were similar to traditional survival rates for HPV-related throat cancer.

September, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Mayo Clinic Q and A: Throat cancer symptoms

Source: newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org
Author: Dr. Eric Moore, Otorhinolaryngology, Mayo Clinic

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Are there early signs of throat cancer, or is it typically not found until its late stages? How is it treated?

ANSWER: The throat includes several important structures that are relied on every minute of the day and night to breathe, swallow and speak. Unfortunately, cancer can involve any, and sometimes all, of these structures. The symptoms of cancer, how early these symptoms are recognized and how the cancer is treated depend on which structures are involved.

All of the passageway between your tongue and your esophagus can be considered the throat. It includes three main areas. The first is the base of your tongue and tonsils. These, along with the soft palate and upper side walls of the pharynx, are called the oropharynx. Second is the voice box, or larynx. It consists of the epiglottis — a cartilage flap that helps to close your windpipe, or trachea, when you swallow — and the vocal cords. Third is the hypopharynx. That includes the bottom sidewalls and the back of the throat before the opening of the esophagus.

Tumors that occur in these three areas have different symptoms, behave differently and often are treated differently. That’s why the areas of the throat are subdivided into separate sections by the head and neck surgeons who diagnose and treat them.

For example, in the oropharynx, most tumors are squamous cell carcinoma. Most are caused by HPV, although smoking and alcohol can play a role in causing some of these tumors. Cancer that occurs in this area, particularly when caused by HPV, grows slowly ─ usually over a number of months. It often does not cause pain, interfere with swallowing or speaking, or have many other symptoms.

Most people discover cancer in the oropharynx when they notice a mass in their neck that’s a result of the cancer spreading to a lymph node. Eighty percent of people with cancer that affects the tonsils and base of tongue are not diagnosed until the cancer moves into the lymph nodes.

This type of cancer responds well to therapy, however, and is highly treatable even in an advanced stage. At Mayo Clinic, most tonsil and base of tongue cancers are treated by removing the cancer and affected lymph nodes with robotic surgery, followed by radiation therapy. This treatment attains excellent outcomes without sacrificing a person’s ability to swallow.

When cancer affects the voice box, it often affects speech. People usually notice hoarseness in their voice soon after the cancer starts. Because of that, many cases of this cancer are detected at an early stage. People with hoarseness that lasts for six weeks should get an exam by an otolaryngologist who specializes in head and neck cancer treatment, as early treatment of voice box cancer is much more effective than treatment in the later stages.

Early voice box cancer is treated with surgery — often laser surgery — or radiation therapy. Both are highly effective. If left untreated, voice box cancer can grow and destroy more of the larynx. At that point, treatment usually includes major surgery, along with radiation and chemotherapy ─ often at great cost to speech and swallowing function.

Finally, cancer of the hypopharynx usually involves symptoms such as pain when swallowing and difficulty swallowing solid food. It is most common in people with a long history of tobacco smoking and daily alcohol consumption. This cancer almost always presents in an advanced stage. Treatment is usually a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

If you are concerned about the possibility of any of these cancers, or if you notice symptoms that affect your speech or swallowing, make an appointment for an evaluation. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances for successful treatment. — Dr. Eric Moore, Otorhinolaryngology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Symptoms of throat cancer depend on which throat structures are affected

Source: tribunecontentagency.com
Author: Eric Moore, M.D.

Dear Mayo Clinic: Are there early signs of throat cancer, or is it typically not found until its late stages? How is it treated?

Answer: The throat includes several important structures that are relied on every minute of the day and night to breathe, swallow and speak. Unfortunately, cancer can involve any, and sometimes all, of these structures. The symptoms of cancer, how early these symptoms are recognized and how the cancer is treated depend on which structures are involved.

All of the passageway between your tongue and your esophagus can be considered the throat. It includes three main areas. The first is the base of your tongue and tonsils. These, along with the soft palate and upper side walls of the pharynx, are called the oropharynx. Second is the voice box, or larynx. It consists of the epiglottis — a cartilage flap that helps to close your windpipe, or trachea, when you swallow — and the vocal cords. Third is the hypopharynx. That includes the bottom sidewalls and the back of the throat before the opening of the esophagus.

Tumors that occur in these three areas have different symptoms, behave differently and often are treated differently. That’s why the areas of the throat are subdivided into separate sections by the head and neck surgeons who diagnose and treat them.

For example, in the oropharynx, most tumors are squamous cell carcinoma. Most are caused by HPV, although smoking and alcohol can play a role in causing some of these tumors. Cancer that occurs in this area, particularly when caused by HPV, grows slowly usually over a number of months. It often does not cause pain, interfere with swallowing or speaking, or have many other symptoms.

Most people discover cancer in the oropharynx when they notice a mass in their neck that’s a result of the cancer spreading to a lymph node. Eighty percent of people with cancer that affects the tonsils and base of tongue are not diagnosed until the cancer moves into the lymph nodes.

This type of cancer responds well to therapy, however, and is highly treatable even in an advanced stage. At Mayo Clinic, most tonsil and base of tongue cancers are treated by removing the cancer and affected lymph nodes with robotic surgery, followed by radiation therapy. This treatment attains excellent outcomes without sacrificing a person’s ability to swallow.

When cancer affects the voice box, it often affects speech. People usually notice hoarseness in their voice soon after the cancer starts. Because of that, many cases of this cancer are detected at an early stage. People with hoarseness that lasts for six weeks should get an exam by an otolaryngologist who specializes in head and neck cancer treatment, as early treatment of voice box cancer is much more effective than treatment in the later stages.

Early voice box cancer is treated with surgery — often laser surgery — or radiation therapy. Both are highly effective. If left untreated, voice box cancer can grow and destroy more of the larynx. At that point, treatment usually includes major surgery, along with radiation and chemotherapy — often at great cost to speech and swallowing function.

Finally, cancer of the hypopharynx usually involves symptoms such as pain when swallowing and difficulty swallowing solid food. It is most common in people with a long history of tobacco smoking and daily alcohol consumption. This cancer almost always presents in an advanced stage. Treatment is usually a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

If you are concerned about the possibility of any of these cancers, or if you notice symptoms that affect your speech or swallowing, make an appointment for an evaluation. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances for successful treatment. — Eric Moore, M.D., Otorhinolaryngology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

Note: For information, visit www.mayoclinic.org

Jay Fund will forever remain dear to heart of ESPN’s Mortensen

Source: staugustine.com
Author: Gene Frenette

Chris Mortensen remembers the moment last May when his own cancer journey reminded him why he had been coming to Tom Coughlin’s Jay Fund benefit dinner/golf tournament for the previous 15 years.

As Mortensen waited in line to receive his proton radiation treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the NFL information insider for ESPN saw a man ahead of him dressed in jeans and work boots strapped to a gurney, holding his 3-year-old son.

“He’s going into the very scary radiation proton room,” said Mortensen. “You have to be in there to understand how intimidating a place it can be, even more so for a child. That’s when I thought of the Jay Fund.

“There’s a dad, who clearly took off from work, with his son who looks sick and scared. It made me think, ‘That’s what the Jay Fund is about, helping families tend to the needs of their children who are suffering from this.’ That was the moment it connected with me.”

Mortensen, diagnosed 17 months ago with Stage IV throat cancer, is now himself an indirect beneficiary of what the Jay Fund does to provide financial/emotional support to pediatric cancer victims and their families. As the man known as Mort learned in his own battle, which metastasized into his lungs in November, he draws inspiration from watching kids fight this terrible disease with an upbeat attitude.

“What I saw at MD Anderson was great humanity, the promise of young people of all nationalities,” said Mortensen. “Not just the patients, but the support of their caregivers. You’re seeing all kinds of pediatric patients and families fight this battle. Now I have a clear image and picture of what they’re feeling.”

Mortensen, 65, remains in the fight of his life to return to the ESPN airwaves for the start of the 2017 football season. He’s been through chemotherapy and the standard 35 radiation treatments. Mortensen thought he was on the cusp of remission last August, until a biopsy in November revealed the cancer had spread into his lungs.

NFL referee Tony Corrente, a throat cancer survivor who had the same oncologist as Mortensen , had forewarned him early on about the challenges he’d be facing.

“[Corrente] said you’re going to go through a period in radiation where you’re going to feel you had the worst strep throat ever in you life times 100,” said Moretensen, whose weight plummeted down to a low of 142 pounds, which he has mostly regained. “And when you’re done with radiation, it’s going to get worse for the next three or four months, which it did.”

Though he can’t play golf due to impending hernia surgery, Mortensen was determined not to miss the Jay Fund event this year. It motivates him to be around people dedicated to a cause, now closer to his heart than he could have imagined a short time ago.

Sunday night at the Jay Fund dinner, Mortensen was touched when he saw 22-year-old cancer survivor Marissa Ierna speak about her battle with rhabdomyosarcoma, which inflicted the lower calf muscles of her legs.

Mortensen, who met Ierna briefly two years ago when they sat at the same table as she received a Jay Fund scholarship, received an email from her right after his cancer diagnosis. Among the hundreds of correspondences of encouragement sent to Mortensen during his battle, it was the words from Ierna on January 19, 2016 that stuck with him the most.

Here is a partial transcript of Ierna’s email to Mortensen: “I want to first say how sorry I am to hear about your recent diagnosis. It took me a while to learn that in order to get through the chemo and all the hard days, I had to keep a smile on my face and always have a positive attitude. I wish I would have known that earlier in treatment, it would have made the first few months a lot easier. As you start treatment, just remember to keep a positive attitude and always stay strong.

“I am very thankful to cancer for all it has provided me. I know this sounds crazy, but it has changed my life for the better. I encourage you to take this terrible disease and turn it into something amazing! The toughest battles are given to the strongest warriors, which means you can do this!”

Now imagine a man in his mid-60s, fresh off a cancer diagnosis, reading that from a young woman he met only briefly at a Jay Fund dinner. It uplifted Mortensen beyond measure, especially when cancer was beating him down.

So when Mortensen heard Ierna’s message to the Jay Fund audience on Sunday, the memory of that email moved him to tears all over again.

“Kids in a cancer unit are just so dang resilient, they actually inspire you,” Mortensen said. “Everybody goes through the fear of cancer on some level, and Marissa’s note was one of the most memorable.

“I read it once or twice all over again when I was in the dark shadows of my cancer journey. I was more emotional listening to her [at the Jay Fund dinner] because it hit me deeper. You couldn’t meet Marissa with that unforgettable smile, hear her story, and ever forget her.”

Ierna recently graduated from Florida State with a marketing degree and just took a job working with the Jay Fund. An avid runner, she’s approaching four years in remission and just ran the Boston Marathon in 3:28.31.

“My oncologist told me I’d never be able to run again any more than five miles because of the radiation in my leg, making me prone to stress fractures,” Ierna said.

A hard tumor was wrapped around her leg muscles, and the cancer in her bone marrow showed it advanced to Stage IV, just like Mortensen.

Ierna, an Atlantic Coast High graduate, credits the Jay Fund for providing her parents and younger brother with the emotional support they needed to cope through her illness. She’s been paying it forward ever since, making it her personal mission to help others like Mortensen in the same predicament.

It’s still unclear what the outcome will be for Mortensen. Acting on a tip from Coughlin, he’s battling the cancer in his lungs with immunotherapy, a treatment option with less intense side effects than chemo or radiation.

The 26-year ESPN employee has most of his voice and hair back, but his saliva glands aren’t yet fully restored to easily get him through 30-second sound bites. He’s hopeful another three months of down time before the season starts will advance the healing process, allowing him to return to full-time duty for Sunday Night and Monday Night Countdown shows.

Mortensen has seen the ravages of cancer up close, how it initially “crushed” his wife Micki and struck fear in so many kids during cancer treatment visits. He has gained an even greater appreciation for Coughlin’s charity, which has delivered over $8 million in grants during its 22-year existence.

But the Jay Fund is about more than just providing families financial assistance. It’s also about cancer survivors emotionally lifting up the next patient.

As Chris Mortensen discovered on his cancer journey, you can never be too old to be inspired by the young.

Changing definition of margin status for oral cancer

Source: www.medpagetoday.com
Author: staff

Data cast doubt on 5-mm standard, use of frozen sections

A commonly used metric for defining a close surgical margin for resected oral-cavity tumors failed to identify adequately the patients at increased risk of recurrence, a retrospective review of 432 cases showed.

The analysis showed an inverse relationship with increasing distance between invasive tumor and inked main specimen margin on the main specimen, but results of a receiver operating characteristic curve analysis identified a cutoff of < 1 mm as most appropriate for classifying patients as having a high risk of local recurrence, as opposed to the more commonly used cutoff of 5 mm.

The analysis also showed that resection of tissue beyond 1 mm on intraoperative frozen section did not improve local disease control, as reported online in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Cancer.

“The commonly used cutoff of 5 mm for a close margin lacks an evidential basis in predicting local recurrence,” Steven M. Sperry, MD, of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and colleagues concluded. “Invasive tumor within 1 mm of the permanent specimen margin is associated with a significantly higher local recurrence risk, though there is no significant difference for greater distances.

“This study suggests that a cutoff of less than 1 mm identifies patients at increased local recurrence risk who may benefit from additional treatment. Analysis of the tumor specimen, rather than the tumor bed, is necessary for this determination.”

The results add to a growing volume of evidence that margins <5 mm can still be curative, said Michael Burkey, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the study. The data also add to evidence that the margins calculated from the main specimen are more predictive than frozen-section margins that many head and neck surgeons have used for years.

“This doesn’t change the fact that clearly getting all the tumor out and clearing margins microscopically are still critical to curative surgery,” Burkey told MedPage Today. “The study provided good data to show that when they got positive margins, even if they subsequently treated with radiation therapy, that led to no improvement in local recurrence.”

“A second key point is that the way we determine the adequacy of surgery is changing,” he added. “We used to say 5 mm, and now it’s probably 1 to 2 mm. More and more we’re finding that the best way to look at margins is off the main specimen, not by taking frozen sections from the tumor bed.”

Despite widespread use in surgical management of head and neck cancers, interpretation of margin status and associated prognostic implications remain imprecise. A survey of head and neck surgeons showed that 83% of respondents considered carcinoma in situ as a positive margin and 17% included dysplasia in the definition. Additionally, 69% of the surgeons used a cutoff of <5 mm between invasive tumor and resection margin to a close margin, consistent with multiple reports in the literature. However, other literature suggested a smaller-distance cutoff is adequate, Sperry’s group noted.

To continue an investigation of the clinical significance and impact of surgical margins in oral-cavity cancer, the authors retrospectively reviewed results in 432 consecutive patients with primary oral-cavity squamous cell carcinoma treated at the University of Iowa from 2005 to 2014. Patients with recurrent disease were excluded from the analysis. The primary outcome was local recurrence as determined by minimum distance in millimeters between invasive tumor and inked main specimen margin.

The patients had a median age of 62, and men accounted for 58% of the study population. T-stage distribution consisted of T1 disease in 45% of patients, T2 in 21%, and T3/4 in 34%. Subsite location was tongue in 45%, alveolus in 21%, floor of the mouth in 18%, and other in 15%.

Rates of local recurrence by margin status were:
44% for microscopic positive margins
28% for margins <1 mm
17% for 1-mm margins
13% for 2-mm and 3-mm margins
14% for 4-mm margins
11% for ≥5-mm margins

“These data demonstrated an exponential inverse relationship between distance and local recurrence, with no appreciable difference in local recurrence for distances greater than 1 mm,” the authors reported.

Local recurrence also was determined on the basis of intraoperative frozen section assessment from tumor bed sampling. The analysis showed similar recurrence rates for close-margin distances between patients with involved and negative frozen sections. Among patients with a positive main specimen margin, those with an involved frozen margin had the highest local recurrence rate at 54%, as compared with 36% for patients with a negative frozen margin.

The authors analyzed the results on the basis of whether additional tissue was resected to achieve a negative margin after initial frozen section indicated cancer. The analysis incorporated collapsed margins of ≥5 mm, 1 to 5 mm, <1 mm, and positive. Success was defined as a final margin uninvolved with either invasive carcinoma or carcinoma in situ after further resection. For patients with a positive main specimen margin, successful additional resection did not improve local control.

“For patients with final margin distances grater than 0 millimeter, the local recurrence rate appeared to be the same whether a successful additional resection of the margin was performed or note,” the authors reported.

Finally, Sperry’s group analyzed local recurrence according to whether patients received adjuvant radiation therapy. For patients with a positive main specimen margin, radiotherapy did not improve local control, and the recurrence rate was the same for the other main-specimen margin categories, regardless of whether radiation therapy was administered.
Study limitations included a relatively small group of surgeons performing the majority of surgical procedures, and the inability to compare results based on different methods of intraoperative margin evaluation, such as tumor bed versus main specimen sampling, the authors noted.

Reviewed by:
Robert Jasmer, MD Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner

Primary Source:
JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

Source Reference: Tasche KK, et al “Definition of ‘close margin’ in oral cancer surgery and association of margin distance with local recurrence rate” JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2017; DOI:10.1001/jamaoto.2017.0548.

Beating HPV-positive throat cancer

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com
Author: Pamela Tom, Contributor

National Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week is April 12-18, 2017

For at least two years, 47 year-old Rob Clinton of Rochester, NY, would choke on post nasal drip in the shower. He knew something was wrong in his throat but he didn’t feel any pain.

Did he have cancer? Clinton smoked cigarettes for 30 years and worked in an auto body shop where he was regularly exposed to carcinogens, but he wasn’t experiencing the typical symptoms of throat cancer. These include hoarseness or a change in the voice, difficulty swallowing, a persistent sore throat, ear pain, a lump in the neck, cough, breathing problems, and unexplained weight loss.

In November 2015, Clinton went to the dentist to have his teeth cleaned. His dentist felt Clinton’s swollen neck and recommended that he visit a medical doctor. Clinton heeded the advice and sought the opinion of an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY.

The ENT doctor sent Clinton to have a CAT scan and when he scoped Clinton’s throat, the doctor said, “I see something in there.”

What he saw was a tumor and there were a few other things going on too.

The Diagnosis
The biopsy showed that Clinton had Stage IVa oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) at the base of his tongue—and the cancer was HPV positive. HPV stands for the human papillomavirus and a recent survey found that more than 42% of Americans are infected with HPV. While most people’s bodies naturally clear HPV after two years, some people’s immune systems do not recognize the virus and consequently, HPV can harbor in the body for decades. HPV-related throat cancer has been linked to oral sex.

The Treatment
On December 4, 2015, Clinton underwent neck dissection surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. Dr. Hassan Arshad, a head and neck cancer surgeon, removed 30 lymph nodes; two had cancer and one tumor was the size of a golf ball. One lymph node on the other side of neck and a tongue tumor would be treated with radiation.

The first of 35 radiation treatments began one month later in conjunction with Cisplatin chemotherapy infusions. That’s seven weeks of simultaneous radiation and chemo.

“I drove myself to treatment for the first five weeks. Up until the last week of treatment, it wasn’t too terrible,” Clinton says. “But then I started getting tired and my mother took me to the cancer center.”

Clinton had decided not to get a feeding tube prior to or during treatment and as the radiation and chemo attacked his cancer, he began to lose weight. The treatment reduced Clinton’s appetite because foods began to taste different. For two weeks, he also felt a burning sensation in his mouth and says his saliva tasted like hot sauce.

“It was excruciating and the worst thing I dealt with during treatment.”

Furthermore when radiation makes the throat feel tender and raw, it becomes nearly impossible to eat normally through the mouth.

Clinton was 215 pounds before treatment. After treatment, he weighed in at a mere 165 pounds. A loss of 50 pounds. In hindsight, Clinton wishes he had the feeding tube inserted while he was still strong.

“Don’t be afraid of the treatment. It’s manageable and you can get through it. I recommend a feeding tube because it’s a comfort knowing you have an option,” says Clinton.

The Recovery
While it took a month for Clinton to recover from the initial surgery, doctors say it takes at least a year for HPV+ throat cancer patients to find their “new normal”—regaining strength, adapting to lingering side effects.

Following chemo, Clinton experienced “chemo brain” or “chemo fog,” known as a cognitive impairment that can occur after chemotherapy. The patient may experience memory loss or dysfunction, and have difficulty concentrating or multi-tasking.

The radiation also took its toll on Clinton. He researched and found a salve made of calendula flowers, olive oil, beeswax, and Vitamin E oil to soothe his parched skin. Trying to gain weight was a bigger challenge. First, his taste went “totally upside down” and spicy foods were intolerable.

“A vanilla cookie tasted like black pepper,” Clinton says. “Only frozen peas and parsley tasted normal.”

And dry mouth is a common result of the radiation treatment. While both sides of Clinton’s neck received radiation, he had less saliva production on his left side. At night he would have to wake up every 40 minutes to drink water. Clinton must make certain not to become dehydrated because it causes the dry mouth to worsen. Now he chews gum almost non-stop.

In his search to combat dry mouth, Clinton says he researched solutions online and found ALTENS, or acupuncture-like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A study led by Dr. Raimond Wong, an associate professor of oncology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found evidence that ALTENS may reduce patient-reported xerostomia, the medical term for dry mouth.

Clinton joined Dr. Wong’s clinical trial to determine whether ALTENS for six weeks/four days a week would be as effective as treatment for 12 weeks/two times a week.

“Four days a week, the researchers put pads on the inside of my ankles, the outside of my knee, back of my hands, between my thumb and forefingers, and between my chin and bottom lip,” says Clinton.

Clinton says ALTENS felt like little shocks and the acupuncture-like stimulation improved his saliva production by 80 percent. “Even after I stopped ALTENS, my saliva kept improving,” says Clinton.

The Survivor
Two years after cancer treatment, regular PET scans show that Rob Clinton has no evidence of cancer. In fact, the prognosis for HPV-related throat cancer is 85 to 90 percent positive if caught early. In contrast, patients who battle advanced throat cancer caused by excessive smoking and alcohol have a five-year survival rate of 25 to 40 percent.

Dr. Arshad, Clinton’s surgeon at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, explained why.

“The majority of tonsil and tongue base (“throat”) cancers are HPV-positive, but smoking is still a major risk factor. Typically, non-smoking patients with HPV-positive tonsil/tongue base cancers present with a lump in the neck, implying that the cancer has already spread to lymph nodes. This used to mean that the patient would have a reduced chance of long-term survival,” Arshad says. “We now know that for nonsmokers who have HPV-positive cancers, metastasis to lymph nodes doesn’t carry the same poor prognosis. The newest staging system reflects that change, i.e. Some of those patients who were previously classified as stage IV are now at stage II if the cancer is HPV-positive.”

Clinton is not only faring well physically, surviving cancer changed his outlook and lifestyle.

“My life is pretty much back to normal. I get a little nervous each time I get a PET scan but so far, it shows I am free of cancer,” Clinton says. “I have a better appreciation of things. I live healthy in terms of diet and recreation. I don’t smoke or drink heavily.”

The Future of HPV+ Oropharyngeal Cancer
De-stigmatizing HPV is a key component to building public awareness and acceptance of HPV infection, and the ability to recognize the early symptoms of HPV-related throat cancer. As more and more people are diagnosed with HPV-related throat cancer, the social stigma surrounding the virus is a disturbing deterrent because HPV cancer patients are often reticent to disclose the HPV connection.

In a 2015 public service announcement, actor Michael Douglas who was treated HPV+ base of tongue cancer called for oral screenings but never said “HPV” by name. “A very common virus, one responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers is now identified as the cause of this rapid rise in oral cancers,” said Douglas.

In the early years of the AIDS crisis, people associated infection with illness, fear, and death. It took a decade to generate a movement and begin to change the public sentiment. Now after continual education, AIDS is accepted and the focus centers on hope instead of ostracization.

Clinton hopes more people will accept that HPV infection is common—the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the U.S., according to the CDC. The American Society of Clinical Oncologists also found that by 2020, the annual number of HPV-related oropharyngeal in nonsmoking, middle-aged men will surpass the number of cervical cancer cases.

“HPV is not a shameful thing. It’s very common. It’s just that some people can’t clear the virus from their bodies,” Clinton says. “This type of cancer is the next epidemic. I feel fortunate every day that I came through it as well as I did.”

April, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Magnolia man joins exclusive trial in battle against cancer

Source: www.cantonrep.com
Author: Denise Sautters

Rich Bartlett is looking forward to getting back to his hobbies — woodworking and nature watching — and enjoying a good steak and potato dinner. Until then, though, he is in a fight for his life, one he plans to win.

Bartlett is a cancer patient and the first participant in a clinical trial at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland to test the safety of an immunotherapy drug — Pembrolizumab — when added to a regimen of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Back to the beginning
Bartlett went to the dentist in October for a checkup.

“He had a sore in his mouth he thought was an abscess,” explained his wife, Nancy Bartlett, who pointed out that, because radiation and chemo treatments cause the inside of the mouth to burn and blister, it is hard for Bartlett to talk.

“When the dentist looked at his sore, he sent Richard to a specialist in Canton, and in early November, he had a biopsy done. It came back positive for cancer.”

From there, he was referred to Dr. Pierre Lavertu, director of head and neck surgery and oncology at University Hospitals, and Dr. Chad Zender from the otolaryngology department, who did Bartlett’s surgery.

“They let us know it was serious,” said Nancy. “It had gone into the bone and the roof of the mouth, but they were not sure if it had gone into the lymph nodes. By the time we got through that appointment, it was the first part of December and (they) scheduled him for surgery on Dec. 22.”

The cancer tripled in size by then and the surgery lasted 10 hours. Doctors had to remove the tumor, all of the lymph nodes and parts of the jaw and the roof of Bartlett’s mouth.

“They harvested skin from his hand to rebuild the inside of his mouth, and took the veins and arteries and reattached everything through his (right) cheek,” she said. “He could not even have water until February because of the patch. He uses a feeding tube to eat now.”

The tube is temporary until Bartlett heals.

Clinical trial
Just before he started chemo and radiation therapies, the hospital called him about the clinical trial.

The trial is the first to use quadra-modality therapy — or four different types of therapy — against the cancer, according to Dr. Min Yao, the principal investigator.

Yao said Bartlett has squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, with only a 50 percent chance of survival.

“Patients have surgery, then followed by six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy and immunotherapy,” Yao said in an email interview. “That is followed by six more months of immunotherapy, one dose every three weeks.”

Bartlett currently is in the radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy part of the study.

“It is too early to tell how he is responding,” said Yao. “His tumor has been resected. After the treatment, we will see them periodically with scans. Cancer often recurs in the first two years after treatment.”

Pembrolizumab originally was developed to activate the body’s immune system in the fight against melanoma. Former president Jimmy Carter was treated with the drug for his brain metastases from melanoma in 2015.

A truck driver by trade, Bartlett will undergo daily fluoride treatments for the rest of his life to protect his teeth.

“We did not realize until we got to Cleveland just how bad this was,” said Nancy. “When you have oral cancer, and they are getting ready to do radiation and chemo, you have to go have your teeth cleaned and examined and get anything done that needs to be done because radiation tends to compromise your blood flow in your mouth. That was a step we didn’t know.”

Although he was shocked to hear the outcome of that sore in his mouth, Bartlett is grateful to be a part of the trial.

“Who wouldn’t feel good about something like this? I mean, you got something that was used on Jimmy Carter, who is recovered and is now making public appearances again,” said Bartlett, who is looking forward to June when hopefully he can start eating again and enjoying his hobbies.

“I am very hopeful about this. The whole thing has been a trial. I have a dentist in Cleveland who said I was going to be in the fight of my life, and I am. I am in a huge fight. The chemotherapy is what has knocked me down the most, but I am very positive about the outcome of this.”

March, 2017|Oral Cancer News|