tongue cancer

New Association found between Obesity in patients with Tongue Cancer

Source: US News
Published: February 7, 2014
By: Robert Preidt, HealthDay Reporter


FRIDAY, Feb. 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Obese people who are diagnosed with tongue cancer might be at increased risk of dying from the disease, a small new study finds.

Researchers looked at about 150 people who had surgery for early stage squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue and found that obese patients had a five-fold increased risk of death.

Three years after surgery, 87 percent of normal-weight patients were alive, compared with 68 percent of obese patients, according to the findings, which were published recently in the journal Cancer.

The study is the first to link obesity and increased risk of death in patients with any type of head or neck cancer, the researchers said.

They said previous studies have found an association between obesity and worse outcomes among patients with several common cancers, including breast and colon cancers.

“The role of obesity across several common cancers is a focus of increased attention,” study senior author Dr. Clifford Hudis, chief of breast cancer medicine at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said in a center news release. Hudis is also president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Because the study was so specific in terms of the cancer’s location in the body and disease stage, it helped clarify the effect of obesity, another researcher said.

“Most prior research investigating the interaction between [obesity] and head and neck cancers included multiple tumor sites and disease stages,” study first author Dr. Neil Iyengar, a medical oncology and hematology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering, said in the news release. “Due in part to these confounding factors, it previously had been difficult to clearly understand the role of obesity in head and neck cancers.”

“By focusing on a single site and a more select patient population, we designed our study to better identify new and relevant prognostic factors for this particular type of cancer, which could lead to further refined and tailored treatment strategies down the road,” Iyengar said.

Although the study found an association between obesity in patients with tongue cancer and higher risk of death, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.


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



February, 2014|Oral Cancer News|

Michael Douglas: ‘Throat cancer’ was really tongue cancer

Author: Jen Christensen, CNN

Michael Douglas never had throat cancer, as he told the press in 2010.

The actor now says he had tongue cancer. Douglas said he hid the diagnosis at the urging of his doctor to protect his career.

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“The surgeon said, ‘Let’s just say it’s throat cancer,’ ” Douglas told fellow actor Samuel L. Jackson for a segment that ran on British television as a part of Male Cancer Awareness Week.

Douglas says that the doctor told him if they had to do surgery for tongue cancer, “it’s not going to be pretty. You could lose part of your tongue and jaw.”

When Douglas first talked about his cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2010, he was on a worldwide publicity tour for the movie “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”

Douglas and Jackson joked that could have been the end of his acting career. Douglas said if he had surgery he could see the director saying, “What’s your good side? I’ve got no side over here.”

“There really is no such thing as throat cancer per se,” explained Brian Hill, an oral cancer survivor and the founder of the Oral Cancer Foundation. Douglas has taped a public service announcement to raise awareness about oral cancer for Hill’s foundation.

“Throat” cancer and tongue cancer are both colloquial terms that fall under the oral cancer umbrella. Throat cancer usually refers to cancerous tumors that develop in your pharynx, voice box or tonsils. Tongue cancer refers to cancerous cells that develop on your tongue.

“The treatment up until just recently can be very brutal,” Hill said of tongue cancer. “Your career as a leading man could be over. If you have signed a contract to promote a movie, you would have a strong motivation not to say … ‘Maybe in six months I won’t have a tongue or lower jaw.’ ”

Douglas apparently did not need the potentially disfiguring surgery. He told Jackson he was instead treated with an aggressive form of radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment, he said, lasted five months.

In June, Douglas kicked off an animated conversation about the cause of oral cancer when he told The Guardian that he got throat cancer after engaging in oral sex. Oral sex can expose individuals to the human papilloma virus, which can cause cancer.

Later, Douglas’ publicist told CNN that Douglas did not blame HPV solely for his cancer; Douglas said he was also a smoker and a drinker. Smoking and drinking, particularly when combined, are considered the most significant contributing factors to oral cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So is Douglas’ gender. Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women.

Oral cancers account for 2% to 4% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States. An oral cancer diagnosis is particularly serious; only half of the people diagnosed with oral cancer are still alive after five years, according to the CDC. In large part, that’s because of the late diagnoses of this disease. Most signs of this cancer are difficult to detect and are often painless.

Douglas told Jackson that initially his doctors treated him with antibiotics. Douglas had been complaining of a soreness at the back of his teeth. Three months later when it still hurt, the doctor gave him another round of antibiotics. Nine months later, after talking to a friend who was a cancer survivor, he went to the oncology department where a doctor did an initial exam and then a biopsy. He was diagnosed with stage four oral cancer in 2010.

Douglas is not the first celebrity to misidentify the kind of cancer they have.

Actress Valerie Harper, who first came to fame on the TV show “Mary Tyler Moore,” announced her cancer on the cover of People magazine in March. The story said she had little time left to live and was suffering from terminal brain cancer. It turns out the “Dancing With the Stars” celebrity actually had lung cancer that had spread to the lining of her brain.

“I see a lot of people with ‘brain cancer’ who actually have… lung cancer or breast cancer or some other cancer (that spread) to the brain,” Dr. Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society’s chief medical and science officer, told CNN. “We treat cancer according to its origin.”

Harper’s kind of cancer, leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, can be slowed but the cells are adaptable and can develop a resistance to treatment. A complete remission is unlikely.

Douglas, on the other hand, has had regular check-ups since the diagnosis. At his two-year mark, he told Jackson, his doctors said he was clear of the cancer.

“There is a 95% chance it’s not coming back,” he told Jackson.

October, 2013|Oral Cancer News|

Leaders in Dentistry: Dr. Ezra Cohen

Source: Dr. Bicuspid
By: Donna Domino, Features Editor
Date: July 17, 2013

Ezra Cohen, MD, University of Chicago.
May 21, 2013 — is pleased to present the next installment of Leaders in Dentistry, a series of interviews with researchers, practitioners, and opinion leaders who are influencing the practice of dentistry.

We spoke with Ezra Cohen, MD, an associate professor of medicine and the co-director of the head and neck cancer program at the University of Chicago, and the associate director for education at the university’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Cohen specializes in head and neck, thyroid, and salivary gland cancers, and is an expert in novel cancer therapies who has conducted extensive research in molecularly targeted agents in the treatment of these cancers.

His research interests include discovering how cancers become resistant to existing treatments and overcoming these mechanisms and ways to combine radiotherapy with novel agents. Here Dr. Cohen discusses trends in the incidence, detection, and treatment of oral and head and neck cancers. What’s the significance of your recent finding that there may be five distinct subgroups of the human papillomavirus (HPV)?

Dr. Cohen: The purpose of the research was trying to define molecular subgroups of head and neck cancer (HNC) to inform therapy and outcomes a lot more than we do now as defined by stage and anatomic site. We were taking advantage of a cohort of patients that we treated in a similar fashion at the University of Chicago with a chemotherapy regimen that we commonly use here. The patients had tumors banked and the specimens were carefully clinically annotated, so we had information on response, outcome, and toxicity.

Because many of these patients had participated in clinical trials, we could draw upon all this clinical data and begin to coordinate the data with molecular profiling. We noticed that five subgroups served the classification best. If we went to more subgroups, it did not help to differentiate the patients with respect to outcome; if we went to fewer subgroups, we were leaving out important categories.

What really made us stop and realize that this was real was that HPV-positive patients and HPV-negative patients segregated into their own groups quite nicely. We of course validated the entire algorithm on different datasets, and we showed that, indeed, on other datasets the five subgroups still held and the outcomes were still different between those subgroups. So we felt reassured that this wasn’t just a spurious finding based on a limited number of samples and limited datasets, that these subgroups are real.

When we looked at specific genes or groups of genes that made up the subgroups, we were then able to see some very important patterns. The predominantly HPV-negative subgroup looked like they classified into one that was driven by hypoxia, one that was driven by stem cell or mesenchymal type of features that we are calling basal, and one that was driven by cell cycle or epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-related genes that we are calling the classical HNC.

HPV positives segregated primarily into two subgroups: one that appeared to express a lot of immune-related genes and one that was actually similar to the basal HPV-negative group. What is interesting is that the latter HPV group actually did worse and was closer in terms of outcome to the basal subgroup in the predominantly HPV-negative group. We have known that obviously not all HPV-positive patients do well. So maybe here is a classifier that we can apply prospectively to begin to segregate patients into groups of those that will do well and those that may be amenable to specific therapies such as EGFR inhibitions, hypoxia modulations, or immune modulation, depending on the subgroup.

A report published in January in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute noted that the rate of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers is rising, but there is no etiological data on what’s causing the increase. What do you think is causing the increase?

We are still trying to figure that out, but there are some things we can be confident about and some things we have to surmise. We can be confident that the number of HPV-positive and tobacco-unrelated cancer patients are definitely increasing. Also, no doubt these are sexually transmitted entities and that HPV oropharynx cancer is a sexually transmitted disease. The epidemiology strongly favors that and there likely is an immune-host component to this — the ability to eliminate the virus completely versus allowing the virus to integrate into DNA. What we do not know is why. Why are we seeing an increase in the incidence? Why do people not clear the virus? And in the subgroup of those patients, do they eventually develop cancer?

There is a parallel with oral herpes infections and the rise of HPV oropharynx cancer. There is a parallel with a change in sexual practices to more oral sexual activity versus other forms of sexual activity. And there is a parallel to a younger age of sexual activity where, because of concerns about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, oral sexual activity may be preferred in younger individuals versus older people who are having sex to conceive.

Those may be demographic factors that are beginning to favor the emergence of HPV-positive cases. And, of course, these are things that have been going on for decades, not just now, because the virus takes 20 to 30 years to produce cancer. These are exposures that happened 20 years ago. They are trends that would parallel what we are seeing in terms of hosts that are not clearing the virus.

There may be modulating factors. We know that males are more likely to harbor the infection than females and that males have a much higher incidence — a 3-to-1 ratio — of HPV-related oropharynx cancer than females. There may be something hormone-related or differences in the immune systems that somehow protects females from developing oropharynx cancer. There may be an interaction with smoking, and some have cited an interaction with marijuana and the development of this cancer. How those may play a role in the ability of the immune system to clear this virus we still have to elucidate. But clearly there are host factors that in some individuals do not allow clearance of this virus, and we do not understand those completely.

Are you seeing more HNC and oral cancer cases in your facility? If so, why?

We are definitely seeing more oropharynx cancers. It could be a combination of factors. We are a tertiary care center that has an interest in HNC and the numbers are truly rising. We are seeing more young patients with tongue cancer who do not have the typical risk factors. That is a disease that worries us quite a bit, not only because we really cannot explain the biology, but our data indicate these patients have worse outcomes.

Researchers have found that parts of the genome are missing in cancer patients. Has there been any information related to oral cancer patients? A recent study of head and neck cancer patients showed that in one patient, 5,000 genes had at least one mutation, and 1,300 had at least two. But the researchers said most were “passengers” — that is, mutations alongside another mutation that acts as a “driver.” What do you think is the significance of these findings?

Without doubt it is true. When we sequence cancers, including oral and HNC, we can see a lot of mutations. The challenge is trying to figure out which ones are important. We call those drivers because they affect the biology of the cancer. So the presumption is if you inhibit a driver, you will have a therapeutic effect on the cancer. If you modify a passenger, you are unlikely to see a therapeutic benefit.

It is certainly true in oral and HNC. We think one gene that is commonly mutated in tobacco-related HNC is p53. We think that is an important gene in the biology of these cancers because it is a common mutation in 50% to 60% of these cancers, and because it is a gene that affects so many critical pathways in the carcinogenic process. It tends to happen very early; even before cancers develop, we see evidence of p53 mutations. That is an example of a gene we think is indeed a driver. On the other hand, there are mutations in many other genes, but we are just not sure how important they are.

What is the greatest challenge in successfully treating head and neck cancers?

Head and neck cancer is an important disease in the way we view cancer and our approaches to it because of two factors. It is a disease in which in a majority of patients we are at least going to consider curative therapy. That does not apply to lung, pancreatic, esophageal cancer, and most cancers that we treat.

The other thing is if you think about what defines us as human beings, especially social animals, so much of it occurs above the clavicle. They involve structures that are profoundly affected not only by the disease but by the treatment. So when you think about it in that context, HNC becomes a cancer that most affects quality of life and that has the greatest financial and social implications of any cancer we know of. So choosing the appropriate therapy on an individual basis for HNC really becomes critical. I cannot overemphasize that. This is a cancer in which the patient has to be cognizant of where they are going for treatment, what type of treatment they will get, and the experience of the center because cure and function are at stake.

A study compared outcomes in patients treated in multidisciplinary centers and with collaboration prior to therapy, and the differences were dramatic. There is evidence that outcomes are better. I think it is a critical component. Not just having multidisciplinary conferences — the content of the conference is important, but one surrogate of that is likely the experience of the center. A radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and surgeon who treat five of these a year is likely to be much different than somebody who treats hundreds of these a year.

Where do you think we will see the next big breakthrough for oral cancer, in treatment or prevention?

I think the next wave of breakthroughs will be predicated on what we are learning in the molecular biology of this disease. That will lead to the development of agents specifically for HNC and the molecular alterations, which will lead to better patient selection for therapies and, ultimately, better outcomes. But screening and prevention are critical, especially for oral cancer because this is a disease we should be able to screen for quite readily. For cancers of the oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx, those are a little bit more difficult to screen for, but for oral cancer, screening and prevention are very important.

There are also ongoing efforts for different compounds that hopefully try to prevent a second cancer from developing or a preneoplastic lesion from turning into a cancer. Nothing has been approved yet, but there are a lot of efforts going on around the country.

What role can dental professionals play in improving the detection of oral cancer?

It is the hygienist who often spends more time with patients, so we have to train those individuals, as well as primary care physicians, to implement oral cancer screening. But clearly the dental office is a key component, and it really should be the individual that spends the most time with a patient, and for most practices that is probably the hygienist.

What kinds of research are you doing now?

Research naturally flows out of the classification. We are developing protocols specifically for HP- positive versus HPV-negative patients. We will look at this classification in a prospective manner to see if it is validated. We are of course integrating novel agents based on what we understand about the molecular biology. We feel very strongly that the PI3 kinase is an important pathway in many cancers, and we think it is a very important pathway in HPV-positive cancers. We are developing and have ongoing clinical trials that specifically target that pathway to see if indeed these agents will be effective.

We also have a large chemoprevention effort using an approach that was developed at the University of Chicago to inhibit early blood vessel growth in preneoplastic lesions using the drug vandetanib, which is commercially available. We are very encouraged by the preclinical data, and hopefully we’ll have something to offer patients to actually prevent the cancer from occurring in the first place.
* This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

July, 2013|Oral Cancer News|

Grant Achatz Drops Malpractice Suits After Four-Year Battle

Source: Crain’s Chicago Business

Renowned chef Grant Achatz, whose successful battle with tongue cancer added an unusual twist to his story, has dropped his medical malpractice lawsuits filed against Chicago dentists.

Mr. Achatz sued two dentists and their practices in April 2008 in Cook County Circuit Court for negligence. He claimed neither took the steps necessary to diagnose his cancer. He sought damages in excess of $50,000 plus court costs.

The last of the suits, one filed against Dr. Loveline Dulay and her Wilmette practice, was dismissed Wednesday, according to another defendant’s attorney. The medical malpractice trial had already started with jury selection under way, the attorney said.

Mr. Achatz’s attorney, Chuck Hornewer of Phillips Law Offices of Chicago, declined to comment.

Mr. Achatz and his business partner Nick Kokonas opened Alinea in 2005. While it was accumulating accolades from around the country (and eventually from around the world), Mr. Achatz noticed a painful lesion on his tongue. In November 2005 he visited Dr. Dulay, who did not order a biopsy, a decision that Mr. Achatz said was negligent, according to his original complaint. In July 2006, he visited Dr. Michelle Schwartz at Bucktown Wicker Park Dental Associates, who also did not order a biopsy. Mr. Achatz believed she was also negligent, according to the original complaint.

By 2007, he was diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer, and doctors found the cancer metastasized to his neck. He took part in a University of Chicago clinical trial that used radiation and chemotherapy, rather than the typical method of removing parts of his tongue. His cancer is now in remission.

The chef is also a co-owner with Mr. Kokonas of Next, another eatery that has received much buzz.

The suit against Dr. Schwartz was dismissed with prejudice on Friday, said Roger Littman, her attorney at Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym Ltd. He said the complaint against Dr. Schwartz was “dismissed voluntarily by the plaintiff after ascertaining her level of liability.”

The case against Bucktown Wicker Park Dental Associates was dismissed with prejudice after both parties reach an undisclosed settlement, according to a court document. Attorneys for the dental practice were not available for immediate comment.

Claims against Otolaryngology Group Ltd. of Glenview, which was not part of the original complaint, were dismissed a “matter of weeks ago,” Mr. Littman said.

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

March, 2012|Oral Cancer News|

Kenneth Price dies at 77; artist transformed traditional ceramics

Source: Los Angeles Times


Kenneth Price was among the first generation of iconoclastic L.A. artists to attain international stature. His work with glazed and painted clay was ‘resolutely original’ and redefined contemporary sculpture, an observer says.

Kenneth Price, a prolific Los Angeles artist whose work with glazed and painted clay transformed traditional ceramics while also expanding orthodox definitions of American and European sculpture, died early Friday at his home and studio in Taos, N.M. He was 77.

Price had struggled with tongue and throat cancer for several years, his food intake restricted to liquids supplied through a feeding tube. Despite his infirmity, he continued to produce challenging new work and to mount critically acclaimed exhibitions at galleries in Los Angeles, New York and Europe.

At the time of his death Price had completed preparations for a 50-year retrospective, scheduled to open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the fall in an exhibition designed by architect Frank Gehry. The show will travel to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A 1992 retrospective traveled from the Menil Collection in Houston to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

In the decades following World War II, Price was among the first generation of iconoclastic L.A. artists to attain international stature. Three Price sculptures were on view in “Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970,” a survey of 47 leading postwar artists that closed this month at theJ. Paul Getty Museum. Important examples of his work are currently included in three additional museum shows featured as part of the Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time, which chronicles significant aspects of Los Angeles art made during the city’s efflorescence between World War II and 1980.

Price’s work is often erroneously described as having “transcended” ceramics to become sculpture. However, his organic and geometric forms, use of vibrant colors and provocative installation motifs instead speak of a thorough knowledge and embrace of critical aspects of ceramic history and its shifting place in art’s continuum. Price’s exquisitely crafted art, often leavened by erotic wit, simply accepted clay’s sculptural bona fides.

“Price’s practice has remained resolutely original, challenging categorization and redefining contemporary sculpture,” said Stephanie Barron, senior curator of modern art at LACMA and organizer of the Price retrospective. “The observation that critic Lucy Lippard made in 1966 seems prescient: ‘It is a fact rather than a value judgment that no one else on the East or West Coast is working like Kenneth Price.’ ”

Especially important to his work was the precedent of the Bauhaus, the experimental school in 1920s Germany that sought to fuse crafts and the fine arts. Hand fabrication had been separated from machine manufacture during the Industrial Revolution, creating a distinction between fine art and applied art and establishing a rigid hierarchy for them. The Bauhaus sought to reconcile the two into a modern, unified whole.

For many years Price kept an abstract image of nested color-squares by Bauhaus instructor Josef Albers, the German-born painter and color theorist, hanging on a wall in his Venice studio — the only work by another artist displayed there.

Price, reflecting egalitarian impulses of the 1960s, found surprising ways to incorporate that legacy in contemporary social terms. Among his most charming works is an extensive series of drinking vessels he called “snail cups.” A variety of snails — a garden nuisance but an ancient symbol for slow, steady and self-sufficient progress — carry and adorn the small cups, one of the oldest and most basic vessel forms. With humor and affection, the snail cups nod to the ’60s handicraft fashions of the Aquarian Age.

Completely different in form, but likewise indebted to the Bauhaus, are geometric vessels glazed in flat, bright, primary and secondary hues. Their compositions recall early 20th century Russian Constructivist paintings by El Lissitzky and Dutch De Stijl works by Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg and architect Gerrit Rietveld. Like the Bauhaus, Constructivism and De Stijl valued pure abstraction, dynamic asymmetry and simplified shapes and colors. Price’s exquisitely made cups brought down to earth the grand Utopian aspirations of those early 20th century movements.

Price’s use of bright color on clay forms was a distinctive feature of his work. Sometimes he achieved it through the use of acrylic paint rather than fired glazes, a method that upset ceramic purists but satisfied the artist’s determination to follow his interests. The technique has reached new heights since the 1990s. Sexy, bulbous forms are painted black, layered with lush acrylic colors and then sanded to reveal the under-paint in richly textured spots of brilliant hues. Some sculptures carry 70 thin coats of paint.

Speaking of his early years, Price told interviewer Kristine McKenna in 1996, “In those days everything was supposed to reflect the inherent nature of the materials, and consequently there wasn’t much colored clay sculpture prior to the ’60s. … But I didn’t think it was a big deal to put color on form. L.A. was the city of cars and fabrication shops where you could have anything made, so it didn’t seem unusual to me to make an organic form and then give it an industrial paint job.”

Similarly critical to Price’s development was his adoption of attitudes and motifs familiar in Mexican pottery. His inspirations include the sensuous, poured glazes of traditional Oaxacan ceramics, plus the domestic and souvenir production of commercial centers such as Tlaquepaque, just outside Guadalajara. Encountering Mexican folk ceramics in roadside stands and souvenir shops during surfing trips to Tijuana and visits to other border regions of the American Southwest, as well as in Taos, he admired their verve, frequent humor and evident humanity.

In an era when many sculptors farm out production to commercial fabricators, Price valued studio labor throughout his career. In the 1970s he spent nearly six years producing “Happy’s Curios,” an elaborate mixed-media installation named for his wife, Happy Ward. A sprawling homage to Mexican folk traditions, Pre-Columbian motifs and popular designs, the work is composed of nine cabinets of pottery, store display-windows, multimedia “Death Shrines,” paintings, tapestries and drawings.

The ambitious project was never completed. “It took a toll,” said New Mexico art critic MaLin Wilson-Powell, who conducted an extensive interview with the artist for the LACMA retrospective’s forthcoming catalog. “It was meant to be an installation to fill an entire building in Taos, but it was too big to finish. So Kenny said he had to do what we did in Vietnam: Call it a victory and get the hell out.”

Portions of “Happy’s Curios” were shown to critical acclaim at LACMA in the spring of 1978. In a serendipitous juxtaposition, the memorial-themed work was displayed in galleries upstairs from the traveling “Treasures of Tutankhamun” extravaganza, a hugely popular presentation of Egyptian tomb artifacts that is generally regarded as the first museum blockbuster exhibition.

The Price installation’s “Death Shrine I,” an elaborate funerary altar behind a cheerful white picket fence and crowned with a skull-shaped vessel, its grinning teeth echoing the white slats in the fence, is now on long-term loan to the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. “Unit 3,” a knotty pine display case for 15 decorated vessels, is in LACMA’s permanent collection. “Town Unit 1,” a fenced display case for 22 plates, cups, bowls and a double-spouted teapot is in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Other Price ceramics, as well as prints and drawings, are in the collections of Washington’s National Gallery of Art, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Art Institute, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and 35 other international museums. In addition to sculptures, prints and drawings, he also made illustrations for books of poetry by Harvey Mudd and Charles Bukowski, an album cover for Ry Cooder and several bottle labels for Del Maguey mezcal spirits.

Price’s fusion of fine and applied art made him the godfather of significant younger generations of artists, many working in Southern California. Functional design is now a central component of sculpture for Kim MacConnel, Jim Isermann, Pae White and MacArthur Fellows Josiah McElheny and Jorge Pardo. Adrian Saxe, a leading artist whose elaborate clay sculptures were the subject of a 1993 LACMA retrospective, cites Price’s precedent as a key inspiration.

Born in Los Angeles on Feb. 16, 1935, Price took informal trumpet lessons from jazz musician Chet Baker and drawing classes at Chouinard Art Institute while still a student at University High School. His first ceramics class came after graduation at Santa Monica College. In 1954 he transferred to USC, where he later taught, and in 1957 he enrolled at the Los Angeles County Art Institute (now Otis College of Art and Design). There, artist Peter Voulkos had shaken up the ceramics establishment with muscular, monumental slabs of roughly worked clay that infuse Asian traditions with Abstract Expressionist bravura. Voulkos’ slashed and gouged platters and brawny sculptures bucked the prevailing ceramic taste for refined harmonies between elegant form and punctilious surface.

Price began to chafe under Voulkos’ domineering influence. Deciding that he also needed specialized training in the intricate technical aspects of firing clay and the complex sciences of glazing, he enrolled in the rigorous ceramics program at the State University of New York at Alfred. He finished the two-year course in just a year, receiving a master’s degree in 1959.

The following year he had the first of three solo exhibitions at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, showing rough-hewn, beehive-shaped covered jars, some displayed inside modest wood cases reminiscent of Joseph Cornell‘s boxed assemblages. The small size of his works surprised people more accustomed to large-scale sculpture, but it announced a lifelong interest in intimacy as a subject.

His second show in 1961 featured a now-famous poster of Price casually riding a Pacific wave on his surfboard, arms held high with his name printed in a rainbow-arch between outstretched hands. It included small, sleek, brightly painted “eggs” with sexually provocative fingers of tangled clay erupting from dark orifices. Friend and fellow artist Edward Ruscha once described them as “psycho-erotic.” The stylistic break with Voulkos was complete. The beautifully crafted and brightly painted work was as effortless and triumphant as the playful surfing poster implied.

Examples of these and other early sculptures are currently featured in the exhibitions “Common Ground: Ceramics in Southern California, 1945-1975,” at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, and “Clay’s Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price and Peter Voulkos, 1956-1968,” at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College, Claremont.

In 1968 Price married Ward, who survives him along with their son, Jackson, and his step-children, Romy and Sydney. Two years later the couple moved to Taos. In 1983 they relocated to the Massachusetts coast, where they remained for seven years, until Price returned to Los Angeles and joined the USC faculty. After teaching for a decade Price went back to Taos with his family. He lived and worked in both New Mexico and California ever since.

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

February, 2012|Oral Cancer News|

Tongue and tonsil cancer patients surviving longer


The five-year survival rate for U.S. patients with cancer of the base of the tongue or tonsils doubled between 1980 and 2002, according to a new study in Cancer Causes & Control (January 2012, Vol. 23:1, pp. 153-164).

In addition, patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers had greater survival rates than those with other oral cancers, and survival was greater for male patients than females regardless of age, according to the study authors, from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, the University of Utah School of Medicine, and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health. However, patients with subsequent multiple cancers showed no overall survival improvement.

The incidence rates of tongue and tonsil cancers have increased significantly in recent decades in the U.S., particularly among younger patients, the researchers noted. At the same time, a number of studies have shown a strong association between HPV infection and tongue and tonsil cancers.

For this study, they used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) 1973-2006 registry system to examine changes in survival rates among patients with base of tongue, tonsil, and other tongue cancers in recent decades. The study included 10,704 patients with squamous tongue or tonsil cancer who were at least 20 years old.

The researchers separated the patients into those with one primary cancer and those with subsequent multiple cancers, then compared trends using three nonoverlapped periods: 1980-1982, 1990-1992, and 2000-2002. The first group included those with only one primary base of tongue, tonsil, or other tongue cancer, while the other consisted of those with subsequent primary cancers after an initial diagnosis of base of tongue, tonsil, or other tongue cancer.

Some 9,187 patients had one primary base of tongue, tonsil, or other tongue cancer, including 2,619 who were diagnosed with base of tongue cancer, 3,225 with tonsil cancer, and 3,343 with cancer in other sites of the tongue. Another 1,517 had subsequent multiple cancers, including 450 who were previously diagnosed with base of tongue cancer, 514 with tonsil cancer, and 553 with other tongue cancer.

Overall survival rates

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that the five-year overall survival rates for base of tongue cancer rose from 24.7% in the 1980s to 50.5% by 2002 (p < 0.001). For patients with tonsil cancer, the survival rate increased from 28.2% to 60.0% (p < 0.001). Patients with other tongue cancers experienced survival rate increases from 36.3% to 52.4% (p < 0.001) in the same 20-year period.

Compared with patients with one primary cancer, however, survival rates for patients with multiple tumors in the base of tongue, tonsil, or other tongue sites dropped significantly, the study authors noted.

Most notably, the five-year cancer-specific survival rates went up by 222.4% (17.4% in 1980 versus 56.1% in 2002) for the base of tongue cancer, 292.3% (16.8% in 1980 versus 65.9% in 2002) for tonsil cancer, and 95% (29.9% in 1980 versus 58.3% in 2002) for other tongue cancers.

Younger patients had much better survival rates, and young men’s survival doubled during the 20-year period, the researchers found. Five-year overall survival rates among female patients ages 20 to 59 years old increased by 71.3% (p < 0.001) and 27% (p = 0.03) for women age 60 and older. In contrast, survival rates increased by 152.1% (p < 0.001) for males ages 20 to 59 and 101.0% (p < 0.001) for men age 60 and older, they noted.

Screening and early treatment key

Survival was similar between patients who received surgery alone or those who had radiation therapy, the study authors found.

“A possibility for the improved survival trends is the effects of early oral screening and early diagnosis and early treatment of oral cancer,” they wrote.

They also speculated that cancers of the tongue and tonsil may be diagnosed more easily and earlier during oral screening, thus increasing survival.

Patients with regional stage tumors also showed improved survival, the researchers found.

The strong association between HPV infection and base of tongue and tonsil cancers probably played a part in the improved survival of both cancers, they noted. This could be related to the nature of the epithelium of the base of the tongue and the tonsil since HPV infection is close to lymphoid tissue, they wrote.

“Survival has significantly improved from the 1980s to the 2000s among patients with base of tongue or tonsil cancer, as well as among patients with other tongue cancer,” the researchers concluded. “Because of the reported strong association of HPV infection with base of tongue and tonsil cancers in incidence and in prognosis, we suspect that the time-dependent improvement may be related with increased HPV infection among patients.”

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


January, 2012|Oral Cancer News|

Quebecers waiting longer for surgery


Canadians who needed surgeries or other treatments in 2011 had to wait longer than they have in close to two decades, says a new report from the Fraser Institute, and the average waiting time for Quebecers has grown to the longest it’s been since 2003.

The think-tank, which has been tracking wait times since 1993, says that the median wait time for surgery in 2011 jumped to 19 weeks, from 18.2 weeks in 2010.

In Quebec the average time in 2011 grew to 19.9 weeks. The previous year patients waited 18.8 weeks, while in 2009 the average waiting time was 16.6 weeks.

Despite the growth in waiting times, Quebec patients were the third quickest in the country at getting the operations they needed.

The survey suggests the main reason for delays in Quebec was the time between seeing a specialist after getting a referral from a General Practitioner, which at 10.7 weeks is above the national average.

The wait for second step of the process — actually getting the operation — had actually decreased in Quebec from 9.9 weeks to 9.2 weeks.

Only in Ontario, B.C., and Manitoba were patients faster at moving into the operating room after an initial visit with a surgeon.

Life-threatening cases always treated quickly

Surgery is not a first-come, first-served affair.

Doctors at the Jewish General Hospital say priority is always given to life-threatening cases.

“There are patients walking around with hernias, for example, that are not symptomatic, that they’ve had for 15 years. They would like to get them repaired but they are not life threatening,” said Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg.

“They’re not as high priority as someone who has a cancer.”

Patients who have cancer are rushed into operating rooms.

Josee Paquette and Valerie Kavanaugh met in hospital, each being treated for tongue cancer.

Because they both had serious cases, each was treated in fewer than five weeks after their initial diagnosis.

“I was afraid at first that we were going to wait at least five or six months but I guess it was too serious so they had to hurry up,” said Kavanaugh

Survey showed increases across Canada

The report, called “Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada,” used survey responses from Canadian physicians to measure median waiting times.

The report measured the wait times between a family doctor referring a patient to a specialist, to the time of the patient actually receiving the treatment.

According to the report, wait times increased in both the delay between referral by a general practitioner to consultation with a specialist (rising to 9.5 weeks from 8.9 weeks in 2010), as well as the delay between a consultation with a specialist and receiving treatment (rising to 9.5 weeks from 9.3 weeks in 2010).

Mark Rovere, Fraser Institute associate director of health policy research and co-author of the report, says despite increases in government health spending, Canadians are still waiting too long to access medically necessary treatment.

He says waiting four-and-a-half months, on average, to receive surgical care prolongs a patient’s pain and suffering.

“It’s time for policy makers to embrace sensible reforms that have worked in other industrialized countries with universal-access health care systems,” Rovere said.

OECD singles out Canada

Last month, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said wait times in Canada were the highest among 11 developed countries it surveyed. It said that in 2010, 59 per cent of respondents reported waiting four weeks or more to see a specialist, and 25 per cent waited four months or more for elective surgery.

But earlier this year, the Wait Time Alliance, a consortium of national doctors’ group, said the provinces and territories deserve a B grade for their efforts to reduce wait times for certain types of medical care.

The group said Canadian hospitals have managed to reduce wait times in five priority areas: cancer care, heart procedures, diagnostic imaging, joint replacement and sight restoration.

However, it also pointed out that one in six hospital beds are taken up by so-called “bed blockers” — patients who would be better cared for in other facilities. These bed blockers are part of the reason ill patients often wait months for elective or scheduled surgeries, the report concluded.

According to Monday’s Fraser Institute report, Ontario has the shortest total wait time among all provinces, at 14.3 weeks, though that’s up from 14.0 weeks in 2010.

British Columbia has the second-shortest total wait at 19.3 weeks, up from 18.8 weeks in 2010. Prince Edward Island recorded the longest wait time at 43.9 weeks, but the report authors note that the number of survey responses from the province was lower than most others, which may have influenced the findings.

Among the various specialties, the shortest total waits were for medical oncology (4.2 weeks) and elective cardiovascular surgery (10.3 weeks). Conversely, patients waited longest for orthopedic surgery (39.1 weeks), and neurosurgery (38.3 weeks).

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

December, 2011|Oral Cancer News|

New Jersey Dentist Involved in Lawsuit After Patient Dies of Metastatic Tongue Cancer


The dentist of a local firefighter who last year died of cancer at the age of 33 is being sued by the man’s estate, which accuses him of failing to warn his patient quickly enough that an tongue abnormality could have been a troubling sign of a bigger problem.

Steven M. Runyon, who grew up in Manville before moving to Somerville, died of metastatic tongue cancer on Aug. 13, 2010, just eight days after his wife of four years, Colleen, gave birth to the couple’s fourth child. But the lawsuit alleges that Runyon’s dentist, Francis Barbieri Jr., first noticed a “raised area” on his patient’s tongue in December 2008 — nine months before he first was diagnosed with cancer — and failed to advise him to look into it further.

Runyon returned to Barbieri for another appointment in June 2009, when the dentist noted visible changes to Runyon’s tongue, and he went back for follow-up sessions three times that summer, the lawsuit indicates. But it was only during the final visit, in August, that Barbieri finally referred him to Somerset Oral Surgery for an evaluation and biopsy, according to the allegations. Runyon subsequently underwent “extensive” treatment by various physicians in various locations — suffering “severe pain, physical disfigurement, mental anguish and suffering,” the suit states — but died less than a year later.

Barbieri did not return a phone call placed to his office last week. The dentist has an office on East Main Street in Somerville and lives in Montgomery, according to his website, which also notes that he entered private practice in Somerset County in 1981 and once was awarded a coveted fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry.

Runyon’s widow declined comment through a family member. The family, which includes former borough councilman Sean Decker, Runyon’s brother-in-law, previously held a series of fundraisers to support the ailing firefighter and his immediate family — the final one, held a week before his death, was a sold-out luau with a Hawaiian theme at the Somerville Elks Lodge in Bridgewater.

Runyon was employed as an auto mechanic in Manville for more than a decade and served as a firefighter with the Manville Fire Department and the Bound Brook Fire Department, according to his obituary. He recently had joined the Lincoln Hose Fire Company No. 4 in Somerville.

The Bridgewater-based attorney representing Runyon’s estate, Thomas Lenahan, also declined extensive comment, saying he feels that the lawsuit speaks for itself. Citing the New Jersey Wrongful Death Statute, the suit demands unspecified costs and damages, alleging that Barbieri’s care of Runyon deviated from generally accepted medical standards and otherwise was negligent and careless.

“As a direct and proximate result of the negligence,” the suit reads, “Runyon was caused to die.”

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

October, 2011|Oral Cancer News|

Life After Tongue Cancer, & a Total Glossectomy

Source: UCSF Medical Center
Author: Sierra Tzoore


Tongue cancer is uncommon, and it’s especially unusual for it to strike a young person who doesn’t smoke or drink heavily. Kate Brown was just 32 years old, recently married and beginning a new job, when she learned that a spot on her tongue was stage III tongue cancer. Brown was referred to UCSF Medical Center, where surgeons recommended a drastic treatment that was her best shot at survival: a total glossectomy, or tongue removal, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

Four years later, Brown is cancer-free and, unlike many patients who undergo total glossectomy, able to eat and speak understandably. We asked Brown about her treatment and path to recovery.

How did you discover you had tongue cancer?

A small sore appeared on my tongue when I had a sore throat. I took antibiotics for the sore throat, but the spot was still there after the sore throat subsided. I then started to have ear pain and the sore got larger. I was prescribed antibiotics again. When my doctor looked in my ear she didn’t see any swelling, but the earache became unbearably painful. I’d never been in pain like that.

In my heart of hearts, I knew at that point that something was terribly wrong, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I decided to see another doctor, who referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. Ivor Emanuel at California Pacific Medical Center. Dr. Emanuel’s specialty is allergies but I think he knew right away that what he saw might be cancerous, because he insisted upon a biopsy right away.

Dr. Emanuel was extremely professional and kind. When he got the results he called my primary care doctor and asked for a nurse practitioner to speak with me personally so I wasn’t getting the news over the phone. He had already found Dr. Eisele at UCSF and had written a referral.

Can you describe your surgery?

I had three surgeons who worked as a team: Dr. David EiseleDr. Lisa Orloff and Dr. Steven Wang. They removed my whole tongue. Due to the extent of the tumor they couldn’t save any of it, unfortunately. They split open my jaw, through my chin all the way down through the right side of my neck. It was extremely invasive, but they had to make sure the cancer had not spread anywhere else.

They then took tissue from my left wrist and upper arm area and used it to recreate a tongue. It’s more of a passageway than a tongue like I had before, but it has some feeling to it. I can taste fairly well because there are tastebuds all over your mouth, not just on your tongue. A lot of taste is through smell and mine must be excellent, because I still taste and enjoy food.

Surgeons used to do a larger graft that resembles an actual tongue, but now they think that doesn’t help the patient with eating and speaking. The tissue doesn’t have any musculature and can’t move, so it just hinders the process.

I do feel that the surgeons at UCSF saved my life, and that the way they rebuilt me allowed me to recover from such a drastic surgery as best I possibly could.

What was it like to come out of such an invasive surgery?

It was like I lost two days. I have no idea what happened, I was just in a twilight zone.

When I woke up I was on a feeding tube, I had a tracheotomy and couldn’t speak at all. I had drains in my face to reduce swelling, but even with the drains, your face is still swollen out to here. My first impression was, “Oh my God.” You think you’ll be like that forever, but you won’t. If you see me today you can barely tell. I have scars but I am not disfigured at all.

I spent 13 days in the hospital. I actually told them I felt better than I really did, just so I could go home.

About three months after I got out of the hospital, we went on vacation to Mexico. It was so great to get out of my apartment and do something that felt good. I couldn’t get in the water completely, but I would stand in the ocean up to my waist and just be like, “Aaaaaaaah.”

I want to stress that I was very fortunate to have an incredible network of family and friends who supported me. I don’t think I would have done as well without them, especially my husband, Brian. He was so sweet and caring and was there for me in my darkest hour.

Was it hard to decide to go ahead with this treatment?

My doctors felt that my cancer was extremely aggressive and advanced, and that the surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy, would give me the best chance of survival and recovery.

Part of the reason I needed surgery was because my cancer was on the anterior [front] tongue. Strangely enough, tumors at the base of the tongue can sometimes respond better to chemo and radiation. It all depends on your pathology and the stage of cancer.

It’s a personal decision but I wanted the best chance of survival possible.

Many people think it’s going to be the end of their lives if they get the surgery and choose to try chemo and radiation first to save their tongues — even though this isn’t recommended and most often doesn’t work. If you wind up needing the surgery anyway, there can be a lot of complications with surgery after radiation — your skin and blood vessels don’t heal as well. Also, the cancer may essentially never leave your body and end up metastasizing.

It’s something I feel strongly about. I’ve befriended patients who passed away because they went down that path.

How did you learn to eat and speak without a tongue?

It was a very slow process. I still feel like I evolve every few months, especially with my speech.

After the surgery, I tried to eat as many different types of foods as possible before I started radiation treatment. The radiation causes quite a bit of discomfort in your throat and it completely kills your appetite. I was glad I developed those muscles prior to radiation, because I really didn’t eat for two or three months. All my nutrition came through a feeding tube.

I worked with speech therapists initially. The first thing they make you do is swallow water because it’s the hardest — it’s the thinnest liquid. Once you can swallow water without aspirating it, then you can move on to soft foods like applesauce and yogurt.

You kind of have to be hungry to want to master eating. I had lost so much weight that I needed the nutrition from the tube, but if I had too much, I didn’t have the appetite to work on solids. It was a tough balance.

Learning how to eat again was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I was literally dripping sweat. It would take me about two hours to eat bites of teaspoon-sized food. It was so frustrating — I was hungry! I lost about 10 or 15 pounds during treatment.

I now eat every type of food, although I need to be careful to take small bites and because of the radiation, I can’t handle spice. Radiation essentially burns the inside of the mouth, and the tissue is still sensitive. I love spicy food, but it burns so bad, it’s not worth it.

How about relearning to speak?

At first, I used a palatal drop prosthesis. It’s something like a removable retainer, and the theory is it helps with the echo in the mouth. Many people find it helpful, but I found it really socially awkward. I couldn’t eat with it in, I couldn’t exercise with it in, and it was messing up my teeth. I was sick of taking it in and out. And I had to adjust to speaking both ways, with and without the prosthetic. Finally my husband said, “Why don’t you just not use it?”

I stopped using it about two years ago. The best speech therapy for me has been getting out and interacting with the world.

And you’re still making progress with your speech?

This year I’m really working on talking on the phone. Anything phone-related, I used to avoid because it was just so painful to go through. But I don’t want to be dependent on other people to do it for me, so I’ve been forcing myself, and making the other person be patient. I feel I’ve made major improvements the last eight months.

I’m looking for a job and have been doing phone interviews. I tell the person that I have a bit of a speech impediment and if they can’t understand, just ask me to repeat, it’s not a big deal. It’s definitely very telling, how people respond. People really reveal themselves when they come across someone with an impediment.

Chemotherapy can harm fertility, but you were able to save your eggs before you started?

I think that was kind of an afterthought for the doctors, because I was much younger than the typical patient. But when they brought it up I said, “Yes, I want to have a family!” Luckily we had the savings to pay for it.

Before my surgery, I went to the UCSF Fertility Preservation Center, and they saw where my cycle was and all that. Between the surgery and starting chemo and radiation, I had my eggs harvested and frozen. I haven’t had a kid yet but I’m planning on it, hopefully next year.

I know two other women who had tongue cancer who now can’t have kids. One didn’t have [fertility preservation before her chemo and radiation], the other knew about it but didn’t have the funds. I wish more people knew about fertility preservation, and that the storage fees are discounted for people who have had cancer.

What’s your prognosis now?

They feel that with the amount of time that’s gone by, the cancer most likely won’t come back. That would be very, very rare for this type of cancer. I stopped having biannual MRIs about a year ago, and now I just have check-ups.

You volunteer with a patient education and advocacy website. What do you do for them? (OCF) was a lifesaver for me when I was first diagnosed and went through treatment. I was so scared. Any kind of life-threatening illness is of course terrifying, but this specific type of cancer affects so many aspects of everyday life. We all take eating and speaking for granted until they’re compromised.

I am a patient advocate for OCF. I answer questions in the forums, I meet and communicate with other patients who have gone through or are going through the same surgery and treatments I had. It’s been wonderful to give back to an organization that helped me so much. The site is an invaluable resource for research, awareness and support for patients, families and caretakers.

How did OCF help you when you were a patient?

I was a basket case, especially at first. I didn’t know what to expect. The doctors, they tell you on a need-to-know basis, for sure. So when I read through all these patient stories on the site, the gravity of the situation really set in. I thought, “How on Earth am I going to get through this? How am I ever going to endure this? How will my life be afterwards?” It seemed just completely and totally unfathomable to me. I was scared to death literally — I couldn’t sleep because I was so terrified and petrified. But if you read about it enough and hear about it enough, you get desensitized. There are also blogs on the site, and I started one immediately after my diagnosis.

Now when I communicate with people in the same boat, I tell them: “Just so you know, my life now is great. Now, here’s the deal.”

It’s been nice. I’ve helped a lot of people. I made a promise to myself [when I was sick] that if I get through this, I have to give back in some way. I feel this is my contribution.

What advice would you give to someone facing a frightening health issue?

Put one foot in front of the other. Don’t think too much about the end result, just try to deal with how you’re feeling that day, emotionally and physically.

During the process, I thought, “how am I going to do this — how am I going to work, how am I going to eat, how am I going to function in this world?” But I just kept trying. I definitely failed many times and I definitely had my bad days, when people were rude to me or insensitive. But I also had great days. People surprised me with kindness and empathy.

Talking on the phone, or everything I’ve relearned, at first seemed so unattainable. If you told me six months ago that I’d be doing phone interviews, I would have said you’re crazy. Just try, take it slowly, and see how you do.


Kate Brown’s Surgeon

Dr. David Eisele, chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and one of Kate Brown’s surgeons, speaks about her treatment.

Tongue Cancer

There are 50,000 to 60,000 new cases of head and neck cancer a year in the U.S., and a fraction of those are oral cancers. I wouldn’t say that Kate’s type of cancer [squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue] is that rare. What’s so unusual is the fact that she’s young and doesn’t have the usual risk factors — in this country, being a smoker and drinker.

Kate’s Case

This was a difficult case emotionally, because here you have this young woman with advanced cancer that necessitates total glossectomy, which is complete removal of the tongue. It’s pretty uncommon for people to have tumors that necessitate that operation. This was a bad, bad cancer.

The Surgery

In addition to her tongue, we removed 50 lymph nodes from the right side of her neck, since we thought she had a metastatic node there. Then Dr. Orloff and Dr. Wang used tissue from her forearm to reline her mouth. This procedure is called a radial forearm free flap, where the tissue is taken from the forearm and brought up with its own blood supply which is hooked up to recipient vessels in the neck.

The repair we used is somewhat unconventional. A lot of surgeons try to recapitulate the tongue with bulky tissue. What they used for Kate was very thin, and I think that has helped her in her recovery. She has a lot of mobility in her structures — she can swallow, she can taste, and she has fairly understandable speech — because she doesn’t have this big piece of tissue in her mouth.

The amazing thing about Kate is that she accepted this major procedure and has adapted and thrived. Every time I see her, I’m thrilled that she’s doing so well.

August 2011

Photos by Tom Seawell.

Aerosmith’s Bassist is Treated for Tongue Cancer with Laser Surgery


Aerosmith will be performing in Mexico and South America this fall and one of the band members will be along for the tour thanks to a radical medical procedure. In one Aerosmith song, bassist Tom Hamilton sends a message to his throat and tongue cancer with the lyrics “you’ve got no business with me.”

Five years ago, Hamilton underwent chemotherapy and radiation for tongue-base cancer, but it came back and extended into his voice box. That is when he turned to Dr. Steven Zeitels. “This is not your classic way, or even traditional way, to try and remove a cancer from the tongue base,” Zeitels said.

Radical surgery was now Hamilton’s only option. But that could leave his voice and breathing passage permanently damaged.

“I was just terrified,” Hamilton said. “I really though, ‘Oh, I am looking at not being able to talk.'”

Zeitels has treated vocal cord cancer with the green-light KTP laser, so Hamilton agreed to be the first person treated that way for tongue base cancer.

The laser emits a green light, which is concentrated in the extra blood running through the cancer.

“Where there is a lot of cancer, there will be a lot of blood,” Zeitels said. “Where there is a lot of blood, there will be a lot of combustion so that you are actually watching the tissues burn completely different”

But not everyone is a candidate for this surgery.

“The second I had a tiny bit of consciousness, the first thing I did was make a sound, and it felt normal, and it sounded normal.” Hamilton said.

A major advantage of the laser is that it can be done repeatedly as new benign or malignant lesions are found.

In this case the patient feels the doctor saved his voice and his life.

Hamilton will be hitting the road this fall as part of the ‘Aero Force One’ tour to Mexico, South America and Japan.

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

August, 2011|Oral Cancer News|