vaccine

HPV leads to increase In head and neck cancer In men

Source: www.nbcdfw.com
Author: Bianca Castro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January, 2018|Oral Cancer News|

HPV vaccine IS safe and effective, confirms longest-ever study into the shot which prevents cancer of the cervix, head, neck throat and penis

Source: www.dailymail.co.uk
Author: Mia De Graaf, Health Editor

The HPV vaccine is safe and effective at preventing human papilloma virus, according to the longest investigation ever conducted on the relatively new shot. While the vaccine has been a success in every study since it came out in the US and the UK in 2006, the medical community has been keenly waiting for some long-term data to show its lingering benefits.

Today, Augusta University’s 10-year study was published in the journal Pediatrics, appearing to confirm the findings in every other short-term report. The data also supported the view that the vaccine should be administered to both boys and girls from the age of nine years old, despite previously only being offered to girls.

Experts say they hope the findings will help drive up rates of children getting the vaccine, which protects against HPV and therefore HPV-linked cancers such as throat, head, neck, penis, and cervical cancer.

‘The vaccine was virtually 100 percent effective in preventing disease in these young individuals,’ says Dr Daron G. Ferris, professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical College of Georgia and at the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US and the UK with an estimated 14 million Americans infected every year, and a third of British adults. While about two-thirds of infected individuals can eventually clear the virus, it persists and can cause a wide range of health problems in the remainder, including a whole host of cancers.

The researchers tracked 1,661 people in 34 sites across nine countries, assessing the effectiveness of the three-shot vaccine – which is the format offered in the US, while UK citizens get a two-shot vaccine.

At first, a third of the participants received a placebo. But within 30 months, they also received the vaccine. They started assessing the patients for signs of HPV – genital warts, precancerous or cancerous growths and other infections – from three-and-a-half years into the study.

Those assessments were carried out twice a year for the next seven years. But by the end of the study, all participants were still disease-free. Notably, those who received the vaccine earlier had a more robust resilience to the virus, judging by the amount of infection-fighter cells in their blood.

‘Now we need to push for more young people to get vaccinated,’ he says. ‘We are doing miserably in the United States.’

The virus is typically spread through vaginal and anal sex and can develop into cancers in the vagina, penis, throat and anus. Nearly all men and women will be contracted with one form of HPV, there are an estimated 150 types, in their lifetime, according to the CDC.

Annually an average of 38,000 cases of HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the US. Of those cases, 59 percent are women and 41 percent are men. But men are more likely to develop a type of head or neck cancer, known as oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, than women.

The CDC recommends for all children in the US to receive the vaccine between the ages of nine and 12. Forty percent of girls and 22 percent of boys aged 13 to 17 years old had completed the three-vaccine series by 2014, the organization found.

In contrast, the National Health Service in the UK recommends for only females to receive the vaccination between the ages of 12 and 13. There are no plans to extend the vaccine to males at this time because it is ‘unlikely to be cost-effective’, according to the The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization.

The vaccination was first introduced for females in a three-part series to help prevent against cervical cancer that forms in the cervix. Cervical cancer occurs from genital HPV, which is skin-to-skin contact during sex.

US men are now encouraged to receive the jab after data revealed they too were at risk from developing HPV and cancers associated with the virus.

Research has also shown that men who give or receive anal sex increase their risk of developing HPV.
Condoms are a protective barrier that health experts recommend for men use in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

December, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Immokalee health clinic earns national award for vaccination rate

Source: www.naplesnews.com
Author: Liz Freeman

The public health department in Immokalee set a goal for getting children vaccinated against cancer and brought home a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention award for its high success rate.

The Florida Department of Health in Collier County, specifically the Immokalee location, was named the regional winner of the 2017 HPV Vaccine Award because of its 76.2 percent vaccine series completion rate among 13 to 15 year olds.

A point-in-time survey in August found 560 children aged 13 to 15 in Immokalee had been vaccinated against HPV, according to a health department spokeswoman.

In the last four years, the Immokalee clinic took on an ambitious campaign in the farmworker community to boost HPV vaccination rates, starting with ensuring that all staff members who have contact with clients are knowledgeable about the virus and the vaccine. The virus is common and can cause certain cancer of the genitals, head and neck. There are about 31,000 new cases of cancer a year caused by the virus, according to the CDC.

Controversy is attached to the HPV vaccine by some groups who argue that getting kids vaccinated may promote early sexual interaction with others. State governments that have authority over school vaccination requirements have faced debate over requiring it and over the cost

State Surgeon General and DOH Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said she was proud of the Immokalee clinic and its success rate for the vaccinating young people against the virus.

“Their commitment to preventing cancers caused by HPV infection and ensuring that every child and parent that visits the clinic are educated about the benefits of the HPV vaccine has a positive impact on the health of their county and our state,” she said in a news release.

The CDC award criteria stipulates that candidates must achieve a vaccination series rate of at least 70 percent of the patient population aged 13 to 15, both girls and boys, seen in the last two years.

Stephanie Vick, administrator of the Collier health department, said the Immokalee team identified a public health challenge and set out to achieve results.

“Their efforts reflect their professionalism and dedication to tackling what for some groups can be a taboo subject and placed the focus upon a universally accepted prevention subject,” Vick said.

People get HPV from another person during sexual contact, and both men and women can get it. A person can get it even if the partner has no sign or symptoms. About 79 million Americans are infected with some type of HPV, and 14 million people become newly infected each year. Most infections go away by themselves within two years, but sometimes it can take longer and can cause cancer of the genitals, in the back of the throat and the tongue.

Since 2006, the CDC has recommended the HPV vaccine, initially in a three-dose series over six months, and then it changed its recommendation to two doses for people before the 15th birthday. The second does should be given six to 12 months after the first dose.

November, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Know what’s worse than the risks of getting the HPV vaccine? Getting an HPV-related cancer. Trust me

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

In an era of $500,000 cancer treatments, you’d expect a vaccine series that costs about $300 and helps prevent several types of cancer to be popular with physicians, insurers, and consumers. It’s not, and, as a result, people are dying. I should know — I’m one of them.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause changes in the body that lead to six cancers: cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer in women; penile cancer in men; and anal cancer in both women and men. It can also cause oropharyngeal cancer — cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils — in both sexes. In the U.S., approximately 30,000 new cancers attributable to HPV are diagnosed each year.

In 2006, the first vaccine became available to protect against HPV infection. I was 38 years old at the time, well above the upper age limit of 26 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for getting the vaccine. Ideally it should be given before the teen years, but can be given up to age 26.

Uptake of the HPV vaccine in the U.S. is abysmal, with just 49 percent of girls and 37 percent of boys having received the recommended HPV vaccination series.

Individuals who oppose the use of vaccines argue that safety concerns should preclude the use of the HPV vaccine. I disagree. The safety and effectiveness of this vaccine to protect against cancer-causing strains of the HPV virus have been unquestionably proven. Others point to side effects of the HPV vaccine as a reason not to vaccinate young Americans. These may include pain, swelling, redness, itching, bruising, bleeding, or a lump at the injection site as well as headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, tiredness, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and sore throat. Most people who get the vaccine experience no side effects from it other than the pain that accompanies most shots.

Missing from the discussion are the risks of not getting the vaccine. As someone with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer, I can describe a few of them. And I can say with certainty I would gladly have experienced any of the vaccine-related side effects rather than the dozen or so “side effects” of the cancer and its treatment that I’m living with. I’ve illustrated them on the image below.

Some of these side effects, like hair loss, aren’t hazardous. Others are. I’ve spent time in an intensive care unit for my rapid heart rate, and have had to go to the emergency department several times for my pleural effusion and other issues. All of these pale beside the biggest “side effect” — a terminal disease that will eventually take my life.

I urge all parents to talk to your child’s doctor about the HPV vaccine. I wish my parents had that opportunity when I was young, as it could have prevented the cancer that’s killing me.

November, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

HPV-related oral cancers have risen significantly in Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

No HPV Vaccination for Boys in UK

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

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

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

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

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

Protection Against Some Cancers

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

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

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

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

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

‘Few Additional Benefits’

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

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

‘An Astonishing Decision’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Shameful’

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

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

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

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

Limited Health Resources

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

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

August, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Plan not to give HPV vaccine to boys causes concern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The argument for vaccinating boys HPV

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

Source: HPV Action

July, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

Personalized cancer vaccines successful in first-stage human trials

Source: http://newatlas.com/cancer-personalized-vaccine-success-trial/50402/
Author: Rich Haridy
Date: July 9, 2017

A cancer vaccine is one of the holy grails of modern medical research, but finding a way to stimulate the immune system to specifically target and kill cancer cells has proven to be a difficult task. Now two recent clinical trials that have produced encouraging results in patients with skin cancer are are providing hope for the development of personalized cancer vaccines tailored to individual patient’s tumors.

Both studies focus on neoantigens, which are mutated molecules found only on the surface of cancer cells. Neoantigens prove to be ideal targets for immunotherapy as they are not present on healthy cells. A vaccine’s challenge is to train the body’s immune cells, known as T cells, to hunt and kill only those specific tumor cells that hold the target neoantigens.

In the first trial, at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, samples of tumors were taken from six patients with melanoma. The patients were identified as having a high risk for recurrence after first having their tumors removed by surgery. For each individual patient the researchers identified up to 20 neoantigens specific to a subject’s tumor.

Computer algorithms were then utilized to help the researchers select which specific neoantigens would best stimulate the body’s T cells. Those neoantigens were then synthesized, mixed with an adjuvant to stimulate immune response, and injected into the individual patients.

Four out of the six patients in this first trial displayed no recurrence of their cancer 25 months after vaccination. The other two patients did have a recurrence of cancer, although in those cases the cancer had already spread into their lungs. After a secondary treatment with the drug pembrolizumab, they also entered complete remission.

The second trial, by Biopharmaceutical New Technologies (BioNTech) in Germany, used a similar strategy that targeted neoantigens in 13 patients with melanoma. These vaccines targeted up to 10 specific neoantigens in each individual patient, and after 12 to 23 months eight subjects were cancer-free.

The vaccines in both studies successfully stimulated both kinds of cancer-killing T cells: the CD8+ cells and their CD4+ helper cells. The studies also found that the T cells were able to specifically target a patient’s tumor.

It’s still early stages in research terms, but these results are incredibly promising. With more, and broader, clinical trials set for the near future, it is yet to be seen how effective these kinds of personalized vaccines are across a wide range of different cancers. A larger clinical trial that also targets bladder and lung cancers is currently underway.

One of the big challenges to overcome, should this form of personalized treatment prove broadly successful, is the cost and time in developing these customized vaccines. Current estimates claim a single patient’s neoantigen vaccine costs up to $US60,000 to produce. In tandem with other new drug innovations, some patients could be paying several hundred thousand dollars for these treatments should they reach the market.

The time it takes to produce an individual vaccine is also a concern when considering how this treatment could be rolled out on a mass scale. It took several months to produce the vaccines in both studies, but the researchers are confident this time frame could be reduced to six weeks or less. However, this is still a significant amount of time if the process was to be rolled out on a large scale.

Pragmatic challenges aside though, these neoantigen vaccines could pave the way for an exciting new form of personalized cancer treatment. One that allows for specific tumors to be targeted by the immune system through customized vaccines.

The results of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute trial were published in the journal Nature, as were the results of the second trial by Biopharmaceutical New Technologies (BioNTech).

July, 2017|Oral Cancer News|

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

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

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

But he has an unusual sense of urgency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is philosophical about his plight.

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

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

Novel vaccine therapy can generate immune responses in patients with HPV-related head and neck cancer

Source: www.news-medical.net
Author: staff

A novel vaccine therapy can generate immune responses in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCCa), according to researchers at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The treatment specifically targets human papillomavirus (HPV), which is frequently associated with HNSCCa, to trigger the immune response. Researchers will present the results of their pilot study during the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago (Abstract #6073).

HNSCCa is a cancer that develops in the mucous membranes of the mouth, and throat. While smoking and tobacco use are known causes, the number of cases related to HPV infection – a sexually transmitted infection that is so common, the Centers for Disease Control says almost all sexually active adults will contract it at some point in their lifetimes – is on the rise. The CDC now estimates 70 percent of all throat cancers in the United States are HPV-related. Sixty percent are caused by the subtype known as HPV 16/18.

“This is the subtype we target with this new therapy, and we’re the only site in the country to demonstrate immune activation with this DNA based immunotherapeutic vaccine for HPV 16/18 associated head and neck cancer,” said the study’s lead author Charu Aggarwal, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of Hematology Oncology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The vaccine is delivered as an injection of antigens – which leads the immune system to start producing antibodies and activate immune cells. At the time of injection, physicians use a special device to deliver a pulse of electricity to the area, which stimulates the muscles and speeds the intake of the antigens. Aggarwal noted that this study represents a multidisciplinary approach involving the lab and the clinic.

“This is truly bench-to-bedside and shows the value of translational medicine within an academic medical center,” Aggarwal said.

Penn researchers treated 22 patients with the vaccine. All of the patients had already received therapy that was intended to be curative – either surgery or chemotherapy and radiation. When doctors followed up an average of 16 months later, 18 of those patients showed elevated T cell activity that was specific to HPV 16/18. All of the patients in the study are still alive, and none reported any serious side effects.

“The data show the therapy is targeted and specific, but also safe and well-tolerated,” Aggarwal said.

Because of the positive activity, Aggarwal says the next step is to try this therapy in patients with metastatic disease. A multi-site trial will open soon that combines the vaccine with PD-L1 inhibitors, which target a protein that weakens the body’s immune response by suppressing T-cell production.