• 7/28/2006
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Kellye Lynne
  • wjz.com

Two experimental vaccines could someday extend life and improve the quality of it for people with head and neck cancer.

Head and neck cancers include those of the throat, mouth, voice box, sinuses and skin. They can be hard to treat and have a high risk of recurrence.

Healthwatch Reporter Kellye Lynn spoke to patients who suffer from the disease, and to the University of Maryland doctors testing the vaccines that could help them live longer.

This year about 40,000 people in the United States will learn they have head and neck cancer.

Lisa Harrigan got the diagnosis in 1999. Now, the cancer that started in her throat has spread to other parts of her body.

“This is my last chance because I’ve had everything. There’s not much more you can do,” Harrigan told Healthwatch Reporter Kellye Lynn.

A scan of Lisa’s brain shows a mass which doctors say cannot be treated by existing therapies.

Her only hope is an experimental therapy being tested at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The vaccine, which is in its first phase of testing, is designed to stimulate the body’s immune response against cancer.

It works by targeting the proteins linked to Squamos Cell Carcinoma, the most common form of oral cancer.

“It’s a way to try to turn on the immune response so it recognizes the tumor but not the tissues around the tumor,” said Doctor Scot Strome, who is testing the vaccines.

Patients receive four shots at monthly intervals. And Lisa says she felt better after the first injection. “I’m still here and I’m still alive and I thank God for that,” she said.

People who smoke are six times more likely to develop head and neck cancer. Alcohol intake and sun exposure also increase risk.

Researchers are still recruiting patients for the study. For more information on how you can participate in the study call 1-800-492-5538, 410-328-2473, or Click Here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email