HPV

Less intense treatment safe for HPV+ throat cancer

Source: www.miragenews.com
Author: public release, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

A less intense treatment for human papillomavirus positive (HPV+) throat cancer—using robotic surgery followed by low-dose radiation—could provide as much benefit as standard higher-dose radiation and chemotherapy while preserving a patient’s throat function, and with potentially less toxicities, according to researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Yale Cancer Center.

The results of their randomized phase two clinical trial will be presented virtually this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting during the Head and Neck Oral Abstract Session (Abstract 6500).

“These results present a promising deintensification approach that has proven to be safe in patients with intermediate risk, locally advanced oropharynx cancer,” said Robert Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and a surgical oncologist specializing in head and neck cancer, who was lead investigator of the trial. The results are not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal.

About 60% of oropharynx cancer, in which cancer cells form in the back of the throat, base of the tongue and tonsils, is associated with HPV infection. The incidence has been increasing in recent years, especially in individuals under the age of 45.

Following robotic surgery, patients with HPV-associated throat cancer would typically undergo high dose radiation and chemotherapy. While robotic surgery allows for more precise and optimal preservation of the organs and surrounding tissue, there is still concern with the toxicities from the chemotherapy and consequences of tissue damage from radiation therapy, particularly in a younger population.

“Most throat cancers caused by HPV have good outcomes, and the cancer doesn’t return or spread to other parts of the body after treatment,” said Ferris, who also is professor, Department of Otolaryngology, of Immunology, and of Radiation Oncology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

“In this trial, we studied the pathologic features of the tumors obtained at surgery to determine patients’ risk of recurrence—low, intermediate or high—to then administer the right amount of postoperative treatment for each risk group.”

Patients at low risk were observed. Patients at intermediate risk were randomized to two arms of radiation alone, at standard or lower doses of radiation. Patients at high risk were assigned to usual high-dose radiation therapy plus chemotherapy.

For patients at low and intermediate risk, the two-year, progression-free survival rate was approximately 95%, and reducing radiation or chemotherapy intensity did not increase the risk of recurrence.

“The tissue samples and imaging studies collected in the course of this trial are a rich resource for studying the biology of intermediate- and high-risk disease, in work that is ongoing,” said ECOG-ACRIN Head and Neck Committee Chair Barbara Burtness, M.D., professor of medicine, and co-leader, Developmental Therapeutics Program, Yale Cancer Center and Yale School of Medicine.

Note:
The ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group designed and conducted the trial with funding from the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Deintensification of Treatment in HPV-Associated Cancers Holds Promise, But With Caveats

Source: Targeted Oncology
Date: May 17th, 2020
Author: Tony Berberabe

 

De-escalating therapy has the potential to dramatically reshape the treatment of patients with HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers, but only if a number of key trials come back with positive long-term data with 3 cycles of cisplatin at 100 mg/m2 times 3, given every 3 weeks, Sue Yom, MD, PhD, a professor in the Departments of Radiation Oncology and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery atthe University of California, San Francisco, said in an interview with Targeted Therapies in Oncology (TTO).

Sure, there were some minor variations over the years, small alterations made on a case-by-case basis. “But long story short, that’s fundamentally what was happening: 70 Gy with 3 cycles of high-dose cisplatin,” Yom said. The story began to change a little over a decade ago, with the introduction of a variable that could potentially change the course of therapy for a large percentage of patients with head and neck cancers. Today, the operative word remains potentially.

In 2008, Maura L. Gillison, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues found that whether head and neck squamous cell carcinoma tumors were associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) turned out to be a major prognostic indicator.1

“When that finally came to be reported, there was a very, very striking result,” said Barbara Burtness, MD, a professor of medicine (medical oncology), Disease-Aligned Research Team leader of the Head and Neck Cancers Program, and coleader of Developmental Therapeutics at Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut Patients with HPV-associated stage III or IV head and neck squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx or larynx had a 2-year overall survival (OS) rate of 95% versus 62% for patients with HPV-negative tumors.

Two years later, Gillison collaborated with K. Kian Ang, MD, PhD, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and published the results of a study in oropharyngeal cancer (NCT00047008), which again found that HPV made a difference in terms of survival.2

Patients with HPV-positive tumors had better OS and progression-free survival (PFS) than patients who were HPV negative (P<.001 for both comparisons). Ang and colleagues reported that the 3-year OS rate was 82.4% (95% CI, 77.2%-87.6%) in patients who were HPV positive compared with 57.1% (95% CI, 48.1%-66.1%) in those who were HPV negative. Similarly, the 3-year PFS rate favored the HPV-positive group, at 73.7% (95% CI, 67.7%-79.8%) versus 43.4% (95% CI, 34.4%-52.4%) for the HPV-negative group (TABLE 1).2

The 3-year absolute benefit of HPV-positive status for OS was 25% (95% CI, 11%-40%), and the absolute benefit for PFS was 30% (95% CI, 15%-45%).

The results were similar with stratification according to p16 expression status. The 3-year rates of OS were 83.6% (95%CI,78.7%-88.6%) in the subgroup that was positive for p16 expression and 51.3% (95% CI, 41.5%-61.0%) in the subgroup that was negative (P<.001). Three-year PFS rates were 74.4% (95% CI, 68.5%-80.2%) and 38.4% (95% CI, 28.9%-47.9%), respectively (P<.001) (TABLE 2).

The study also found that the number of pack-years an individual smoked had a substantialnegative impact on prognosis.

These findings raised serious questions because the current standard of care, unchanged from that described by Yom, can have a profound effect on the life of a patient who survives the cancer. “The after- effects of that dose of radiation are quite real, and they include chronic pain, chronic swallowing difficulties, dry mouth, and dental complications,” Burtness said.

“We are concerned that these patients may be at higher risk for death from the late effects of the treatment.”

Moreover, patients with HPV-associated cancers tended to be younger at diagnosis than those with non-HPV cancers. Patients who develop the cancer in their 50s might have decades of life left—plenty of time for the long-term adverse effects (AEs) of aggressive treatment to show up.

The issue is pressing because HPV-associated cancers represent about 7 in 10 cases of oropharyngeal cancer.3 The most recent statistics from the Centers for Diseases Control & Prevention suggests that 3500 new cases of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed in women versus 15,500 diagnosed in men (FIGURE 1).4

Cherie-Ann O. Nathan, MD, chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgeryat Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, said the new findings underscored the need for more research. “We need to start to look at de-escalating for that low-risk group,” she said.

De-escalation Strategies

Deciding that different strategies might be warranted and choosingwhich approaches make the most sense are 2 different considerations, and both come with difficult questions. Burtness said it can be a challenge just to figure out how to tackle the question.

I think, first of all, it’s challenging to do deintensification trials because they require very large sample sizes, and you want to be sure you’re not deintensifying [treatment in] somebody who would be cured by the full treatment and wouldn’t be cured by the reduced regimen,” Burtness said.

For the most fortunate patients, the OS rate with the current standard of care is in the range of 90% to 95%, setting a high bar for its replacement, Yom said. “It’s a huge ethical and practical situation where you’re actually having to estimate: ‘What would it take to prove that this less intense alternative was as good?’” Yom said.

“Patients do get better with time,” Yom said. “After a year or 2, they can live very normal lives.It’s actually a great treatment in some ways, and 1 question is if we should even be messing with it.”

Another strategy is to reduce the dose or field of radiation. In Yom’s much-anticipated trial, NRG-HN002 (NCT02254278), 306 patients with p16-positive, non–smoking-associated, locoregionally advanced oropharyngeal cancer were stratified by unilateral or bilateral radiation and randomized into 2 groups.4 One group received 60 Gy of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for 6 weeks plus cisplatin (IMRT + C) at 40 mg/m2 weekly. The other group received 60 Gy of modestly accelerated IMRT alone for 5 weeks. The goal was to compare the arms in terms of 2-year PFS rates without unacceptable swallowing difficulty at 1 year. The IMRT + C group met the desired benchmarks; the IMRT alone group did not.

Although the study was just a phase II trial, Yom said the results were encouraging and will lead to further study.

Another strategy is to perform surgery up front, Nathan said. If the margins are negative and there is not a significant number of metastatic lymph nodes or significant extranodal extension, chemotherapy might be avoided. She said transoral surgery has become much more effective and precise in the age of robotics. A common site of lymph node involvement is the retropharyngeal region, shown in FIGURE 2.5

“When robotic surgery became popular and we were able to get margins on these tumors at the base of [the] tongue and tonsils, people started saying [that] for the HPV-associated [tumors], you don’t need the typical wide margins of 5 mm; you could get away with 3 mm,” she said.“ So, the whole purpose of transoral surgery was that after removing the tumor, you could de-escalate.”

Other research has tested the replacement of cisplatin with cetuximab (Erbitux), though one study found that the latter resulted in inferior OS.6

With the exception of the cetuximab strategy, the novel approaches have shown promise. However, Nathan said, clinicians should realize that these are all still hypotheses; there is much that is not yet known.

“Unfortunately, people look at all [these] retrospective data and small institutional trials and make [treatment] decisions, not realizing that it’s still not standard of care,” Nathan said. “It’s fine to de-escalate, but always de-escalate if you can on a clinical trial.”

Ongoing Research

A number of important ongoing trials have the potential to add significant scientific rigor to the debate. Among them is Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group’s ECOG-E3311 trial (NCT01898494), which is examining transoral surgery followed by low- or standard-dose radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy. Initial findings are expected to be presented at the 2020 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting and the trial is expected to be completed in 2023. The PATHOS trial (NCT02215265), which is evaluating transoral resection followed by reduced-intensity radiotherapy with or without cisplatin, is expected to be completed in 2026.

Yom and colleagues are working on NRGHN005 (NCT03952585), a phase II/III study in which patients will undergo deintensified radiation therapy with cisplatin or the PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab (Opdivo) versus standard-of-care chemoradiation. The investigators used an innovative design so that the study will produce scientifically rigorous results for the 70 Gy versus 60 Gy question at the phase III level, even if the nivolumab phase II investigation does not meet its targeted end points, Yom told TTO.

In the meantime, Burtness said, the data are beginning tosuggest, if not conclusively, which types of patients might be a good fit for deintensification. “The omission of chemotherapyin the postoperative setting after transoral resection is probably better for patients with smaller nodes, maybe only 1 or 2 nodes,” she said. “The use of more induction chemotherapy and a lesser dose of radiation is better, obviously,for patients who are going to tolerate chemotherapy well. The omission of systemic chemotherapy and the use of immunotherapy may eventually [lead to the development of] a biomarker signature.”

She cautioned that it is not clear that all HPV-associated cancers should be treated the same way. Certain other factors appear to affect the opportunity for deintensification. “Repeatedly, we’ve seen [that] patients with T4 cancers don’t do well with deintensification,” she said. “Patients who’ve smoked more than 10 pack-years won’t do well.”

Burtness added that there is a good chance the end result of all the research will simply be that certain deintensification strategies are better for certain patient populations. Yom agreed. “One of our goals is to make deintensification acceptable within the standard of care,” she said. “But I’m not sure there’s going to be just 1 standard of care going forward.”

Even if these new strategies show equal or better success rates compared with the current standard ofcare, patients who undergo deintensified therapy might avoid the toxicities of more intense therapy at the cost of unexpected long-term AEs.

The 2 key takeaways from the study we put together are that, 1, there are a lot of different deintensification strategies, and in the short term, a lot of these different strategies don’t show any differences in outcomes or toxicity,” Patel said. “But the second point that is crucial is that longer-term follow-up is necessary for making judgments as to whether or not to do deintensified treatments.”

Nathan said 1 major concern is that patients with deintensified treatment regimens might facea higher risk of a subsequent cancer diagnosis. “HPV- associated cancers still have the same distant metastasis rate as HPV-negative cancers,” she said. “And the distant metastasis is occurring years later and sometimes in unusual locations.”

For example, lack of systemic therapy might not affect the current oropharyngeal tumor, but years later, could it lead to a cancer that might have been prevented? That type of question is impossible to answer at thispoint, andNathan says it is problematic to assume the answer is no.

Nathan also raised concerns about changes to the American Joint Commission on Cancer (AJCC) staging system. In the eighth edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual, HPV-associated cancers were restaged because staging is generally meant to match prognoses, and HPV-associated cancers had been shown to have better prognoses, she said.The end result of the restaging, she said, is that some cancers previously deemed stage IV might now be reclassified as stage I or II. Nathan worries that the lower staging will result in even more deintensification because clinicians will not consider cases as serious as they once did, which would be a mistake, she said. “All the patients who did so well and have such good survival [in the existing de-escalation literature] were being treated like they were stage III or IV,” she said. “So, until you have the results of [ongoing clinical trials], you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Deintensification Today

Clearly, some level of deintensification is occurring withinclinics inthe United States.If itturnsout that 1 or more of the new, lower-intensity strategies is effective, the treatment paradigm for patients will be drastically different, Yom said:“To start talking about things like patient preferences and quality of life is foreign and different in oropharyngeal cancer.”

Patient preference is a key consideration,Patel said: “That’s why the data and being able to share with patients that these outcomes aren’t different at longer-term follow-ups is important.”

Different types of patients will likely favor different approaches, even if de-escalation is validated as a standard option, according to Yom. “I have patients who come to my clinic, and they’re like, ‘I have 2 kids. I’m staying alive. Hit me with everything you have,’” she said.

A large spectrum of Yom’s patient population is very highly educated about their cancers, she said, and that knowledge can inform the strategies they prefer. In many cases, education leads patients to be less concerned about mortality and more concerned about the impact of therapy on quality of life.

“There’s a large proportion of that population where their driving concern is this fear of long-term consequences,” she said.

Yom said radiation oncologists will need to better help patients, who until now had few treatment choices, think through their options. “We don’t have good structures and instruments to help people sort through the decision-making process ina way that makes sense to them,” she said. “I don’t think anybody does.”

Even if the data from the current trialsare positive, Nathan cautioned, the time horizon to evaluate outcomes must be longer than a few years. “Most of these trials are looking good, but follow-up is only about 3 to 4 years, she said. “A lot of our toxicities [that we have seen] have occurred 5 and 8 years later.”

That will require oncologists to be involved in decisions that might be thornier than those patients previously faced. “You’re going to have to be a much better oncologist,” Yom said.

Still, she and others say the challenge will be well worth it, but only if the ongoing scientific study findings support the optimism now shared by many in the field. “This deintensification movement will have huge implications [for] how the majority of patients with head and neck cancers will be treated in this country going forward,” Yom said.

May, 2020|Oral Cancer News|

An Occult HPV-Driven Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma Discovered Through a Saliva Test

Source: Frontiers in Oncology
Date: March 31st, 2020
Authors: Kai Dun Tang, Sarju Vasani, Touraj Taheri, Laurence J. Walsh, Brett G. M. Hughes, Lizbeth Kenny, and Chamindie Punyadeera

Oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) is a rising global concern. Early lesions are small and are often located in difficult to access areas (such as the crypts of the tonsils or base of tongue). Unlike cervical cancer, there is no standard or routine screening program for HPV-driven OPC. HPV DNA from OPC tumors may shed directly into saliva, and this can be used as a biomarker for early diagnosis. In this study, we report the first-ever clinically occult OPC in an asymptomatic patient discovered through a saliva test. This case relied upon serial measurements of HPV-16 DNA in saliva, which fell to undetectable levels following low morbidity, curative treatment.

Introduction

The incidence of high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV−16,-18,-33) driven oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) is rapidly increasing in developed countries (13). HPV-driven OPCs have surpassed cervical cancer as the most common HPV-driven cancer in the USA. The prevalence of HR-HPV has been reported as 3.7% of the USA population, with a bimodal age distribution of incidence (4). It remains unclear why some individuals go on to develop OPC, while others clear the initial HPV infection (5). The strong association between HR-HPV infection and cervical cancer has led to screening programmes in primary healthcare settings, resulting in earlier diagnosis and a reduction in cancer deaths (6). Unlike cervical cancer, no screening test is available for OPC and current HPV vaccines have yet to demonstrate any reduction in future OPC development (7). Here, we report the first ever case of occult OPC detected as a direct result of a theoretical screening test—in this case HPV-16 DNA analysis in salivary oral rinse samples. Our clinical and pathological findings increase our understanding of both the natural history of the disease and the potential for wider screening to identify early stage OPC, facilitating less morbid treatments.

Cases Presentation

An ongoing HPV-16 DNA prevalence study was approved by institutional ethics committees from the University of Queensland; Queensland University of Technology and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. A total of 665 cancer-free healthy individuals from Queensland Region, Australia between May 2016 and October 2017 were recruited. All participants gave written informed consent prior to sample collection.

Six hundred and fifty cancer-free healthy individuals with sufficient amount of DNA were tested for oral HPV-16 DNA. Of these 3 have been identified to have persistent oral HPV-16 DNA infection. Following discussion with our ethics team we have approached these three participants and offered them consultation with an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) surgeon. A 63-year-old caucasian male was assessed as part of this consultation process. He had consistently been HPV-16 DNA positive for a period of 36 months, with a steadily rising HPV-16 viral load in his salivary oral rinse samples (Figure 1A). He was invited to attend the ENT clinic for assessment and discussion.

FIGURE 1
www.frontiersin.orgFigure 1. Occult oropharyngeal microcarcinoma detected based on a screening test through the serial measurements of salivary HPV-16 DNA. (A) HPV-16 DNA viral load in salivary oral rinse samples over time. B (Baseline); F1 (6 month follow-up); F2 (12 month follow-up); F3 (36 month follow-up); PT (2-week post-tonsillectomy). (B) Sections of the left tonsillar tissue found a 2 mm non-keratinising squamous cell carcinoma, with focal stromal invasion <1 mm, excised with clear margins. The remainder of the left tonsil showed follicular lymphoid hyperplasia. Hematoxylin-eosin (H&E x200) (C) HPV-16 DNA was only positive in left tonsillar tissue. (D) p16INK4a immunohistochemistry staining (IHC) x20: Diffuse positive brown staining for p16INK4a in tumor region comparing non-affected area in the left tonsil.

He is an ex-smoker, having quit 15 years ago, with a 45 pack year history of smoking. He drinks two standard drinks (2.5 units of alcohol) per day. He is heterosexual, and his social history includes multiple oral sex partners in the past (>5), followed by a long term monogamous relationship. Initial clinical examination of the oropharynx including palpation and white light revealed no significant abnormalities. Both tonsils were irregular due to mucous retention cysts and there was slight tonsillar asymmetry (Left < Right) but no evidence of any malignant lesions. Narrow band imaging (NBI) showed some mild vascular changes at the left glosso-tonsillar sulcus. There were no palpable lymph nodes in the neck. An MRI examination of the oropharynx and neck demonstrated no occult lesions of the tonsils or the base of tongue and no cervical lymphadenopathy.

He was offered continued surveillance, or a biopsy of the area of NBI change with bilateral tonsillectomy. The patient elected for bilateral tonsillectomy and biopsy of the base of tongue with NBI guidance under general anesthetic and informed consent was obtained. The surgical specimens were sent for histology and tissue HPV-16 DNA testing. The patient was discharged from hospital the same day. He had a routine postoperative course with a sore throat for 1 week and recovered fully. An ultrasound scan of his neck was performed 2 months post-surgery which showed no cervical lymphadenopathy. He is currently under routine oncological surveillance. The patient has a very high likelihood of cure with minimal morbidity from single modality treatment.

Clinical Specimens’ Collection and Processing

Salivary oral rinse samples of this individual were collected at baseline, 6, 12, 36 month, and 2 weeks after his bilateral tonsillectomy using previously published method (810). Briefly, participants were asked to swish and gargle for 1–2 min with 2 × 10 mL volumes of 0.9% saline, prior to expectorating the rinse sample into a 50 mL falcon tube. Tissue biopsies from the tonsil and base of tongue were obtained after surgical resection. All samples were immediately frozen on dry ice upon collection and transported back to the laboratory for subsequent processing.

HPV-16 DNA QPCR Analysis

Total DNA was extracted from salivary oral rinse and tonsillar tissue samples using the QIAmp DNA Mini Kit (Qiagen, Germantown, MD, USA) as per manufacturer’s protocol. For detection of HPV-16 genotyping, the qPCR assay targeting the opening reading frame (ORF) region of HPV16 E6/7 was carried out with the QuantStudio™ 7 Flex Real-Time PCR System (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, USA) as described previously (11, 12). For quantification of HPV-16 DNA viral copies in salivary oral rinse and tissue samples, a standard calibration curve was generated using qPCR by plotting threshold cycle (Ct values) against the logarithm of the copy number of 8-fold serially diluted (1 × 101-1 × 108 copies) of pHPV-16 plasmid DNA [American Type Culture Collection (ATCC)® 45113™].

Immunohistochemistry

H&E (Haemotoxylin and Eosin stains) staining on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) slide was performed to investigate the cellular and tissue structure/morphology. HPV status was evaluated using CINtec® p16INK4a Histology Kit (E6H4 clone) (Roche MTM Laboratories, Heidelberg, Germany) according to manufacturer’s instructions. p16INK4a was considered positive by two independent pathologists when there was a strong, diffuse nuclear and cytoplasmic staining pattern in the majority (>70%) of tumor cells.

Salivary HPV-16 DNA as a Biomarker-Based Tool for HPV-Driven OPC Screening

Salivary oral rinse samples from this individual had been collected at baseline, 6, 12, and 36 month follow-up as well as 2 weeks after his bilateral tonsillectomy. HPV-16 DNA genotyping and viral loads in all samples were analyzed using an in-house developed qPCR assay. HPV-16 DNA viral load in saliva increased exponentially across the 36 month follow-up period (from 3.43 to 1,281.69 copies/50 ng) and subsequently declined to undetectable levels post-tonsillectomy (Figure 1A).

Histologically Confirmed Diagnosis of an Occult P16INK4A Positive OPC

This individual was diagnosed as having a 2 mm squamous cell carcinoma (T1N0M0) in the left tonsil (Figure 1B) using Haemotoxylin and Eosin (H&E) staining. He had only foci of stromal invasion with a depth of <1 mm. The remainder of the left tonsil showed follicular lymphoid hyperplasia. Further, HPV-16 DNA was only positive in left tonsillar tissue (Figure 1C). Immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining for p16INK4a demonstrated diffuse and strong staining in more than 70% of tumor cells (Figure 1D). However, the non-affected remainder of the left tonsil as well as the right tonsil were negative for p16INK4a with usual mosaic pattern of staining. The excision margins of the left tonsillar malignancy were widely clear. No atypia or malignancy could be identified in the right tonsil and bilateral tongue base specimens all of which were negative for HPV-16 DNA.

Discussion

Long-term persistence of HPV-16 infection is likely to be a prerequisite for the development of malignancy (13, 14). Women with persistent HPV-16 infection in the cervix for <1 year have a 40% risk of developing cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or more within 3 years (13). Indeed, the natural history of HPV in the oropharynx from initial infection to carcinogenesis is not known with many questions remaining unanswered. Several studies have evaluated the prevalence of HPV-16 DNA in saliva (1518) without clinical assessment of positive individuals. Studies aimed at clinical assessment of those with persistence for premalignancy or microscopic carcinoma have failed to detect significant abnormalities (19). This has led to the assertion that screening for early occult or premalignant oropharyngeal lesions is not feasible. Here, we report the first ever histologically confirmed diagnosis of an asymptomatic occult OPC (T1N0M0) discovered by a theoretical screening test through the serial measurements of HPV-16 DNA in salivary oral rinse samples.

The impact of the pattern of salivary HPV persistence including changes in the absolute HPV viral DNA copies over time has never been investigated. The pattern of salivary HPV-DNA detection in this case demonstrates an exponential upward trend with the titer at first sample being 3.43 copies per 50 ng and the final titer before surgery of 1281.7 viral copies per 50 ng. This may represent progression of the lesion with subsequent shedding of increasing levels of HPV-16 DNA into the saliva. In future cases the presence of this pattern should be evaluated, as it may provide a critical marker for the progression of disease and hence a signal for intervention; indeed the pattern of viral copies in serial measurement may have more importance than the persistence itself.

This case also has important implications with regards to the natural history of the disease. The left tonsil was strongly positive for HPV 16 DNA outside the region of malignancy and as anticipated was p16INK4a positive only within carcinoma. This implies that the malignancy is likely to have developed in a wider field of HPV infection with only a component undergoing malignant change. The existence of a precursor lesion to OPC has long been doubted and is cited as one of the obstacles to OPC screening (16). This case demonstrates that very early lesions can be found in asymptomatic individual, and that they can potentially be eradicated with minimal morbidity.

The quest for a sensitive and specific screening test for HPV-driven OPC is of great importance. The uptake of HPV immunization in developed countries is variable and the developing world remains largely unimmunised. As sexual habits change in the developing world (20, 21) there is likely to be the same rapid expansion in this disease that we have witnessed in the United States and Europe and global burden will continue to rise. As the first singular case, this report does not act as direct evidence of the value of screening in a general population, however, it demonstrates a possible salivary screening test and pathway for the detection of microscopic OPC. It demonstrates that a screened individual can receive significantly less morbid treatment than would be required for the standard presentation at a more advanced stage. This report and previous studies (8, 11, 12, 22), support the value of a salivary oral rinse test as a potential screening tool. Unlike previously published work, our study is the first to demonstrate that continuous monitoring of HPV-16 DNA in salivary oral rinse samples can detect occult OPC.

Data Availability Statement

All datasets generated for this study are included in the article.

Ethics Statement

This study was approved by institutional ethics committees from the University of Queensland (UQ) [HREC No: 2014000679 and 2014000862]; Queensland University of Technology [HREC No: 1400000617 and 1400000641]; and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) [HREC/16/QRBW/447]. Written informed consent was obtained from this participant for publication of this case report.

Author Contributions

All authors have read and agree to the published version of the manuscript. KT and CP: conceptualization. All authors: methodology, validation, formal analysis, data curation, investigation, and writing—review and editing. KT, SV, and CP: writing—original draft preparation. CP: funding acquisition.

Funding

The prevalence study was funded by Janssen Biotech Inc.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Acknowledgments

We thank Dr. Gert Scheper from Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. We would also like to thank Lilian Menezes for her assistance in the recruitment of study patient and collection of clinical samples.

 

May, 2020|Oral Cancer News|

World-first saliva test detects hidden throat cancer

Source: www.miragenews.com
Author: staff

A simple saliva test developed by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) biomedical scientists has detected early throat cancer in a person who had no symptoms, and no clinical signs of cancer. QUT researchers Associate Professor Chamindie Punyadeera and Dr Kai Tang.

  • A series of saliva HPV tests detected an asymptomatic throat cancer during a trial of a new saliva diagnostic
  • Further validation studies are needed to confirm this finding
  • It is a world-first discovery, previously there was no screening test for HPV-DNA oropharyngeal cancers
  • The patient had surgery in which a 2mm cancer was removed and has had no recurrence of HPV-DNA in his saliva.

In what is believed to be a world-first, the non-invasive test picked up HPV-DNA in a saliva sample from an infected healthy person. Persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is now the leading cause of cancers in the oropharynx (tonsils and tongue base area of the throat).

“The series of saliva tests raised the alert and detected an early cancer before the person had any symptoms,” said QUT Faculty of Health’s Associate Professor Chamindie Punyadeera, who, with Dr Kai Tang developed the test.

“This enabled removal of the tonsil which had a 2mm cancer in it, by straightforward local surgery alone.

“The incidence of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV)-driven throat cancers is on the rise in developed countries and, unfortunately, it is often discovered only when it more advanced, with patients needing complicated and highly impactful treatment.

“In the US, HPV-driven throat cancers have surpassed cervical cancers as the most common cancer caused by HPV but unlike cervical cancer, up until now, there has been no screening test for this type of oropharyngeal cancer.”

Professor Punyadeera said the discovery was made during an HPV-prevalence study which included 665 healthy individuals.

“To take the test all the person has to do is give a salivary oral rinse sample. When the test shows HPV-16 DNA, it is repeated and if the presence of HPV-16 is persistent over a period of time we would be suspicious that there may be underlying cancer.

“The person whom we reported in this study had been consistently HPV-16 DNA positive for 36 months, with a steadily rising count of HPV-16 DNA after testing at 6, 12 and 36 months.

“The patient was found to have a 2mm squamous cell carcinoma in the left tonsil, treated by tonsillectomy. This has given our patient a high chance of cure with very straightforward treatment.

“Since the surgery, the patient has had no evidence of HPV-16 DNA in his saliva.”

Professor Punyadeera said this was the first-ever case of histologically confirmed diagnosis of an asymptomatic, hidden throat cancer, diagnosed with a saliva screening test and that wider validation studies were required to confirm this finding.

“The presence of this pattern of elevated salivary HPV-DNA must be fully evaluated, as it may provide the critical marker for early cancer detection.

“We now have the promise of a screening test for oropharynx cancer and there is an urgent need to undertake a major study to validate this test and the appropriate assessment pathway for people with persisting salivary HPV-DNA.

This research is part of a collaboration with Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital’s Professor Liz Kenny, Dr Sarj Vasani, Dr Touraj Taheri and Associate Professor Brett Hughes and University of Queensland’s Professor Laurence J. Walsh.

Source:
The study, An Occult HPV-Driven Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma Discovered Through a Saliva Test (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fonc.2020.00408/full), was published in Frontiers in Oncology.

Liquid biopsy accurately detects HPV+ oropharyngeal cancer recurrence

Source: www.medpagetoday.org
Author: Zeena Nackerdien PhD, CME Writer, MedPage Today

In general, HPV-positive OPSCC has a favorable prognosis as compared with HPV-negative disease, which has supported efforts to de-intensify treatment regimens to reduce exposure to potentially toxic therapies. Positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) imaging 3 months after definitive treatment is standard for response assessment in many cases.

However, the disease will recur in up to 25% of patients, depending on clinical risk factors and tumor biology. The latency period prior to OPSCC recurrence is 2 years for many patients, but rare case reports have described latency periods exceeding 5 years.

Currently, National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines recommend surveillance of patients with HPV-associated OPSCC every 1 to 3 months for the first year, every 2 to 6 months for the second year, every 4 to 8 months for years 3 to 5, and then once a year thereafter.

Because the oropharynx can be a difficult anatomic location to evaluate — a process that may be further obscured by treatment-related tissue changes — radiologic imaging studies have been used in cancer surveillance for this disease.

According to study findings published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a blood test for tumor-associated HPV-DNA had near-perfect accuracy for identifying OPSCC patients at high risk of recurrence after treatment.

The findings have clear and immediate implications for clinical practice, including earlier initiation of salvage therapy for patients with recurrent disease, reported Bhishamjit S. Chera, MD, of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and colleagues.

The negative predictive value (NPV) of 100% and positive predictive value (PPV) of 99% of recurrence detection by this method compared favorably with alternative and emerging post-treatment surveillance strategies.

The findings extended those of a previous report, which showed that a persistently negative ctHPV-DNA test ruled out disease recurrence.

“With regard to how this is applicable to clinical practice, I think it improves the effectiveness, it improves the efficiency, and it reduces the cost and financial toxicity to patients,” Chera told MedPage Today.

Chera and colleagues prospectively evaluated a ctHPV-DNA liquid biopsy in 115 patients who had completed definitive chemoradiotherapy for HPV-positive OPSCC. Each patient had PET/CT imaging 3 months after finishing treatment. The researchers tested patients for ctHPV-DNA at 6- to 9-month intervals.

During a median follow-up of 23 months, 28 patients tested positive for ctHPV-DNA, indicating a possible recurrence, including 16 patients who had two consecutive positive tests. Also during follow-up, 15 patients developed biopsy-proven recurrence of OPSCC; all 15 had two consecutive positive tests for ctHPV-DNA. The median time from ctHPV-DNA positivity to recurrence was 3.9 months.

Consecutive positive tests had a PPV of 94%. The previous report from the study showed that a negative test had an NPV of 100%.

For the 87 patients who tested negative for ctHPV-DNA, none developed recurrence.

“In this study, we had accumulated enough follow-up data to see who was going to develop recurrence and who wasn’t,” said Gaorav Gupta, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the department of radiation oncology at UNC School of Medicine, in a press release. “That allowed us to determine that the test performs best if you look at two consecutively confirmed blood tests.”

Chera and team did acknowledge that heterogenous clinical factors (intensity of treatment, tobacco pack-years, use of chemotherapy) might have impacted the pattern and frequency of disease recurrence in this study. Other study limitations included the fact that the results for the ctHPV-DNA assay used in this study might not apply to alternative ctHPV-DNA assays.

Since there is no “gold standard” for surveillance imaging, the researchers chose the more stringent criterion of biopsy-proven recurrence to define a change in disease status. They added that a shorter interval between ctHPV-DNA testing (e.g., every 3 months) would more precisely define the extent of earlier detection.

Source Reference: Journal of Clinical Oncology 2020; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.19.02444

    Study Highlights and Explanation of Findings:

While imaging and image-guided procedures play important roles in the screening, diagnosis, and surveillance of cancer, serial monitoring for disease recurrence can be a costly, invasive, and cumbersome process.

“We developed a technology that enabled us to distinguish HPV DNA that came from a tumor from HPV that’s simply related to infection,” said Gupta.

“The way I see this working in the clinic is that if you have a negative test, we don’t do a fiberoptic exam, we don’t order any imaging,” said Chera. “If you have a patient whose surveillance test is positive, we would bring the patient back 2 or 3 months later and repeat the blood test. If it’s positive again, then we would do an in-depth physical examination; we would do a fiberoptic exam and order a total-body PET/CT scan. This test can help us better identify which patients we can omit imaging in and those patients we can do imaging in.”

The test very well could have value in the management of patients with other types of HPV-related cancers, he said. The researchers have already examined the rate of ctHPV-DNA clearance as a biomarker for response to treatment and a possible decision-making tool for treatment de-escalation.

The testing technology has been licensed to Naveris for commercial development, and multiple medical centers have already partnered with the company to conduct studies across a variety of HPV-related diseases, said Chera.
Reviewed by Henry A. Solomon, MD, FACP, FACC Clinical Associate Professor, Weill Cornell Medical College

References:
Chera BS, et al “Plasma circulating tumor HPV DNA for the surveillance of cancer recurrence in HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer” J Clin Oncol 2020; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.19.02444.

Bankhead C “Blood Test Spot On for HPV Cancer Recurrence”, MedPage Today 2020-4-09.

April, 2020|Oral Cancer News|

Which cancers have increased over the past decade?

Source: www.mdlinx.com
Author: Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx

The incidence of cancers at the level of the oral cavity and pharynx increased between 2007 and 2016, according to a recent report by researchers from the CDC published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This rise occurred despite respective decreases in the incidence of cancers at various anatomic sites.

Cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx make up 3% of cancers diagnosed in the United States each year, with risk factors including tobacco use, HPV infection, and excessive alcohol intake.

“The overall increase appears to be driven by increases in cancers of the tonsil, base of tongue, oropharynx, and other cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, which are HPV-associated, as well as by those of gum and anterior tongue,” wrote the authors.

Breaking down the numbers
On average, the incidence rates for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx combined increased by 0.6% per year between 2007 and 2016, with specific increases as follows:
Oral cavity and pharynx (3.4%)
Base of tongue (1.8%)
Anterior tongue (1.8%)
Gum (1.9%)
Tonsil (2.4%)
Oropharynx (1.9%)

For the following cancers, however, incidence rates decreased:
Soft palate and uvula (−3.7%)
Hard palate (−0.9%)
Floor of mouth (−3.1%)
Lip (−2.7%)
Hypopharynx (−2.4%)
Nasopharynx (−1.3%)

Of note, the incidence of cheek and other mouth and salivary gland cancers remained unchanged.

April, 2020|Oral Cancer News|

Novel intervention looks to improve timeliness, equity of head and neck cancer care delivery

Source: www.miragenews.com
Author: staff report, Medical University of South Carolina

Many factors go into surviving cancer.

Hollings Cancer Center researcher Evan Graboyes, M.D., specializes in head and neck cancer, a disease with poor survival prospects despite intense therapy with combinations of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. While head and neck cancer only accounts for 4% of all cancer cases each year in the US, it has a high mortality rate. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 14,000 patients died from this disease in the U.S. in 2019.

Overall, only 50% of head and neck cancer patients are alive at five years. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is even worse for African American head and neck cancer patients. That’s why researchers are looking for new strategies to improve patient survival and decrease racial disparities in outcomes for these patients.

Graboyes and MUSC Hollings Cancer Center researchers Chanita Hughes-Halbert, Ph.D., Katherine Sterba, Ph.D., Hong Li, Ph.D., and Graham Warren, M.D., Ph.D., have teamed up to develop and test a novel intervention to improve the timeliness, equity and quality of head and neck cancer care delivery, which they think might one day be the key to improving survival for these patients.

Funded by a $1.3 million 5-year grant from the National Cancer Institute, their study – Improving the Timeliness and Equity of Adjuvant Therapy Following Surgery for Head and Neck Cancer-started in September 2019 and built upon important research funded by grants from Hollings Cancer Center.

Graboyes explained that for patients with advanced head and neck cancer who are treated with surgery, national guidelines recommend that postoperative radiation therapy should start within six weeks of surgery.

“However, we know from our research that despite national guidelines, over half of the patients nationally don’t get radiation started in a timely fashion. Patients who have delays with radiation are more likely to die and have their cancer recur,” he said. “We are trying to find new ways to deliver timely head and neck cancer care. It’s an appealing way to help improve survival for this group.”

Innovative approach
The study is designed in three parts. The first part aims to identify the underlying reasons for why delays starting postoperative radiation are so common for this patient population. The researchers then developed a new multilevel health care delivery intervention called NDURE (Navigation for Disparities and Untimely Radiation thErapy), that specifically targets the barriers that lead to delays.

In the second part of the grant, the researchers will pilot the NDURE intervention in a small group of patients to make sure that it’s feasible and acceptable and refine the intervention based on participant feedback. In the third and final part of the study, they will compare NDURE to standard care in a randomized controlled trial to see whether NDURE is effective at decreasing treatment delays.

“This study interests me because it is clinically important. To help patients with head and neck cancer live longer, you don’t need to invent a new drug. All you need to do is get them the treatment they’re supposed to be getting. If we can find a way to deliver timely guideline-recommended care, it could have such a large impact on their survival,” he said

“It’s also a scientifically important study. Head and neck cancer treated with surgery followed by radiation is a great model system for us to understand how we deliver cancer care. Right now, we spend a lot of time and effort helping get people in to initiate cancer care. However, we understand a lot less about how cancer patients move through complicated treatment plans.”

Graboyes said South Carolina is primarily a rural state with some geographic barriers that present obstacles for patients to navigate. “Many of the patients will have surgery at a regional center like MUSC, then because radiation is five days a week for six weeks, they’ll get radiation at a different facility closer to where they live. We have to coordinate cancer care across health care systems, which presents some barriers that can lead to treatment delays.”

Graboyes emphasized that head and neck cancer is a major concern for the state of South Carolina and Hollings Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center. The two major causes of head and neck cancer are smoking and human papillomavirus (HPV). The state’s population is affected by both, due to high rates of tobacco use and very low rates of HPV vaccination.

“As a result, Hollings has recognized this issue and has really invested a lot in the clinical enterprise of head and neck cancer because it’s such a problem in South Carolina.”

Hollings also has a strong cancer control program dedicated to reducing issues of health disparities and equity in the state, he explained.

“We think that NDURE, our intervention targeting the multilevel barriers to timely head and neck postoperative radiation, will be an effective way to help improve timely cancer care delivery for these patients, which will lead to higher rates of survival and low recurrence and decrease racial disparities and outcomes. That’s very exciting to our team.”

Did you know?
About 70% of cancers in the oropharynx (which includes the tonsils, soft palate and base of the tongue) are linked to HPV.

Dedicated to the mission of raising HPV vaccination rates for teens and young adults, Hollings Cancer Center has initiated a $700,000 three-year project. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends speaking with a doctor about the HPV vaccination. The HPV vaccine can prevent new infections with the types of HPV that most often cause oropharyngeal and other cancers.

April, 2020|Oral Cancer News|

Blood Test Spot On for HPV Cancer Recurrence

Source: MedPage Today
Date: April 1st, 2020
Author: Charles Bankhead

 

A blood test for tumor-associated human papillomavirus (HPV)-DNA had near-perfect accuracy for identifying oropharyngeal cancer patients at high risk of recurrence after treatment, a prospective study showed.

Overall, 28 patients tested positive for circulating tumor (ct) HPV-DNA, including 16 patients who had two consecutive positive tests. All but one of the 16 patients subsequently had biopsy-proven disease recurrence. No patient who had only negative tests developed recurrent disease.

The findings have clear and immediate implications for clinical practice, including earlier initiation of salvage therapy for patients with recurrent disease, reported Bhisham S. Chera, MD, of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“With regard to how this is applicable to clinical practice, I think it improves the effectiveness, it improves the efficiency, and it reduces the cost and financial toxicity to patients,” Chera told MedPage Today. “This blood test’s performance is really good: Negative predictive value (NPV) 100%, two consecutive positive tests, 94% positive predictive value (PPV). This performs better than any physical examination, PET/CT, or fiberoptic re-examination in identifying cancer recurrence. Right now, I think this is the best surveillance tool we have.”

The findings extended those of a previous report, which showed that a persistently negative ctHPV-DNA test ruled out disease recurrence.

HPV infection accounts for a majority of new cases of oropharyngeal cancer in the U.S. After years of rapid increases in prevalence and incidence, oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) has become the most common HPV-associated cancer, surpassing HPV-associated cervical cancer.

In general, HPV-positive OPSCC has a favorable prognosis as compared with HPV-negative disease, which has supported efforts to de-intensify treatment regimens to reduce exposure to potentially toxic therapies. Nonetheless, as many as a fourth of patiens will develop recurrences, the authors noted.

Most recurrences occur within the first 2 years after treatment, but some patients remain at risk of recurrence for as long as 5 years, or even longer in rare cases. Salvage therapy for recurrent HPV-positive OPSCC leads to better outcomes as compared with salvage therapy for recurrent HPV-negative disease.

PET/CT imaging 3 months after definitive treatment is standard for response assessment in many cases, the authors continued. National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines recommend surveillance visits at increasing time intervals through 5 years. During the visits, patients often undergo fiberoptic nasopharyngolaryngoscopy, although a recent report showed that routine surveillance rarely identifies recurrent disease.

A blood-based surveillance test based on detection of ctHPV-DNA offers potential for early detection of recurrent disease and has precedents in bladder, breast, and colorectal cancer. Chera and colleagues prospectively evaluated a ctHPV-DNA liquid biopsy in 115 patients who had completed definitive chemoradiotherapy for HPV-positive OPSCC. Each patient had PET/CT imaging 3 months after finishing treatment. Investigators tested patients for ctHPV-DNA at 6- to 9-month intervals.

During a median follow-up of 23 months, 28 patients tested positive for ctHPV-DNA, including 16 patients who had two consecutive positive tests. Also during follow-up, 15 patients developed biopsy-proven recurrence of OPSCC; all 15 had two consecutive positive tests for ctHPV-DNA. The median time from ctHPV-DNA positivity to recurrence was 3.9 months.

Consecutive positive tests had a PPV of 94%. The previous report from the study showed that a negative test had a NPV of 100%.

“The way I see this working in the clinic is that if you have a negative test, we don’t do a fiberoptic exam, we don’t order any imaging,” said Chera. “If you have a patient whose surveillance test is positive, we would bring the patient back 2 or 3 months later and repeat the blood test. If it’s positive again, then we would do an in-depth physical examination; we would do a fiberoptic exam and order a total-body PET/CT scan. This test can help us better identify which patients we can omit imaging in and those patients we can do imaging in.”

The test very well could have value in the management of patients with other types of HPV-related cancers, he said. Investigators have already examined the rate of ctHPV-DNA clearance as a biomarker for response to treatment and a possible decision-making tool for treatment de-escalation.

The testing technology has been licensed to Naveris for commercial development, and multiple medical centers have already partnered with the company to conduct studies across a variety of HPV-related diseases, said Chera.

April, 2020|Oral Cancer News|

The YAP signal plays a crucial role in head-and-neck cancer onset

Source: www.eurekalert.org
Author: press release, Kobe University

Joint research between Kobe University and National Hospital Organization Kyushu Cancer Center has revealed that mice with mutations in the YAP signal pathway develop head-and-neck cancer over an extremely short period of time (world’s fastest cancer onset mouse model), indicating that this pathway plays a crucial role in the onset of these cancers. This discovery may shed light on the development of new drugs for head-and-neck cancer.

This research resulted from a collaboration between a research group led by Professor SUZUKI Akira and Associate Professor MAEHAMA Tomohiko at Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, and Dr. MASUDA Muneyuki’s team at Kyushu Cancer Center.

These results were published in the American scientific journal ‘Science Advances‘ on March 18.

Main Points:
>Deletion of MOB1 (*1, which represses YAP) in mouse tongues causes strong activation of YAP (*2), leading to the early onset of cancer (in about 1 week).

>In humans, the expression of YAP increases during the development of dysplasia (pre-cancerous lesions), prior to the onset of head-and-neck cancer. YAP continues to increase with the development and progression of cancer. This high YAP activation is linked to poor patient prognosis.

>The onset and progression of head-and-neck cancer in the mice in this study, and the proliferation of stem cells in this cancer in humans, are dependent on YAP.

>These results suggest that cancer develops when the YAP activation exceeds a threshold. YAP may play a fundamental role in head-and-neck cancer onset and progression. These conclusions represent a paradigm shift in the understanding of these cancers.

>The mouse model developed in this study can be used in research to develop new drugs for head-and-neck cancer and, in addition, provides a beneficial resource for cancer research in general.

>By inhibiting YAP, the development and progression of head-and-neck cancer can be suppressed. Thus, the YAP pathway provides a good target for head-and-neck cancer treatments.

Research Background

Head-and-neck cancer in humans
Head-and-neck cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer in the world, affecting 600,000 people annually. In Japan there are around 22,500 new cases every year. This ‘head and neck’ includes the oral cavity and areas of the throat (pharynx and larynx). Among these, mouth cancers (especially tongue cancer) are the most prevalent.

It is understood that exposure to carcinogens, such as those found in cigarettes and alcohol, as well as mechanical irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth, tooth decay and improperly fitted dentures, are risk factors for the development of head-and-neck cancer.

In addition, 15% of head-and-neck cancer is caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which in particular causes oropharynx cancer.

The prognosis for patients who are HPV-positive is relatively good. Conversely, prognosis is poor for HPV negative patients and in most cases, mutations are found in the tumor suppressor gene TP53 (p53). However, mutations in this gene alone are not sufficient to cause head-and-neck cancer. It has been thought that changes in other molecules are also necessary for cancer development, however these causes remain elusive.

From comprehensive cancer genome analyses, it is known that PTEN/P13K (46%), FAT1 (32%), EGFR (15%) gene mutations are also found in HPV-negative head-and-neck cancer. However, the genetic pathway of these molecules in relation to head-and-neck cancer development has not been sufficiently understood.

Mouse models of cancer
Up until now, research using mouse models of head-and-neck cancer has discovered that if both the p53 and Akt genes are mutated, 50% of mice will develop this type of cancer about 9 months after the mutation (the average mouse lifespan is 2 years).

The onset of cancer begins after many genetic mutations have accumulated (multistep carcinogenesis). Mice with a mutation in one important molecule usually develop cancer within 4 to 24 months (with the majority showing signs between 6 to 12 months).

The YAP pathway
The function of the transcriptional co-activator YAP is to turn ‘on’ the transcription of gene clusters related to cell growth. The LATS/MOB1 complex phosphorylates YAP, thereby excluding YAP from the nucleus, leading to the subsequent degradation of YAP proteins. In other words, MOB1 and LATS act as a ‘brake’ (tumor suppressor) to inhibit cell proliferation facilitated by YAP. It has been reported that in 8% of human head-and-neck cancer cases, the YAP gene is amplified and there is a connection between YAP activation, cancer progression and poor prognosis.

This research group produced mice with MOB1 deletion in their tongues (so that YAP would be intrinsically activated) in order to perform a detailed analysis in vivo of the role that the YAP pathway plays in head-and-neck cancer.

Research Methodology

Mice with MOB1 deletion exhibit rapid onset tongue cancer
This research group developed mice with MOB1 deletion in their tongues by applying the drug tamoxifen to their tongues and then modifying them genetically using the Cre-loxP system (*4).

Three days after applying tamoxifen, the amount of MOB1 had barely decreased, however by day 7, the vast majority of these proteins had disappeared. At this point, a third of the mice demonstrated rapid onset head-and-neck cancer (intraepithelial tongue cancer), with all mice developing the disease by day 14. The cancer had progressed in all mice by day 28 (invasive tongue cancer). The team succeeded in developing the world’s fastest mouse model of cancer onset. Both domestic and international patents for this model have been applied for.

This mouse model showed that head-and-neck cancer develops quickly (within a week) when the YAP pathway is strongly activated, suggesting that this pathway plays an extremely important role in head-and-neck cancer onset.

YAP activation and tumorigenic properties of the tongue epithelium in MOB1 deletion mice.
The epithelial cells (on the surface of the tongues) of MOB1 deletion mice exhibited the following properties characteristic of tumor development: increased cell proliferation and cell saturation density, impaired cell polarity, low levels of apoptosis (cell death), increase in undifferentiated cells, and chromosomal instability (characterized by increases in aneuploid cells (*5)), multipolar spindles (*6) and micronucleated cells). On a biochemical level, activation of YAP and a decrease in LATS proteins was evident due to MOB1 deletion.

The epithelial cells acquired the characteristics of tumor cells due to the YAP activation caused by the deletion of MOB1.

YAP activation in the stages of tongue cancer in humans
The development of human tongue cancer can be divided to the following stages; the normal stage, the dysplasia stage, the intraepithelial cancer stage (*8) and the invasive cancer stage (*9).

If we look at YAP activation across all these stages, we can see that YAP is enhanced in the dysplasia stage which proceeds the onset of cancer. YAP activation shows continued increase during the subsequent stages of cancer progression. In cases where YAP is highly activated, overall survival is decreased and the likelihood of cancer relapse is high.

In other words, YAP increases before the onset of cancer and continues to increase as the cancer develops and progresses. Accumulation of YAP is linked to poor patient prognosis.

Cancer formation is dependent on YAP when MOB1 is deleted
Invasive cancer occurred in MOB1 deletion mice. However, when both YAP and MOB1 are deleted from mice, cancer onset is halted at the dysplasia stage, showing that the onset of head-and-neck cancer is dependent on YAP (Figure 2).

Among current YAP pathway inhibitors, the SRC inhibitor Dasatinib (*10) was shown to be the most effective (SRC has been previously shown to activate YAP both directly and indirectly). Dasatinib was shown to prevent the onset of intraepithelial head-and-neck cancer in the MOB1 deletion mice. It also suppressed the development of invasive cancer in MOB1 deletion mice that had reached the intraepithelial head-and-neck cancer stage.

In human head-and-neck cancer stem cells, it is possible to suppress cell proliferation either by inhibiting YAP gene expression or by adding YAP inhibitors. Cisplatin, which is commonly used to treat head-and-neck cancer, is augmented when YAP is suppressed.

In mice, head-and-neck cancer onset and progression was suppressed when YAP was inhibited. In the same way, it was shown that in human tongue cancer stem cells, cell proliferation was also suppressed when YAP was inhibited.

Known genetic mutations in human head-and-neck cancer and YAP activation
Genetic mutations in p53, PTEN/PI3K, FAT1, and EGFR have been identified in HPV-negative head-and-neck cancer.

This research group showed that EGF signal activation and mutations in p53, PTEN and FAT1 each play a role in YAP activation. Furthermore, YAP activation gradually increases as these genetic mutations accumulate.

Normally, cancer takes time to develop as it is a multistep process. However, in this study, intraepithelial head-and-neck cancer rapidly developed just from highly strengthening YAP activation.

In conclusion, this study raises the possibility that the following process for head-and-neck cancer development takes place: A. Cancer develops when the YAP activation exceeds a threshold due to the accumulation of genetic mutations in p53, PTEN/PI3K, FAT1 and EGFR (Figure 3). B. Subsequently, YAP continues to accumulate after cancer has developed, resulting in cancer progression.

Conclusion and Further Developments
YAP is frequently activated in cancer cells although genetic mutations in the YAP pathway are not frequently found. It is thought that this is why the importance of the YAP pathway in the onset of head-and-neck cancer was unclear until now.

1. YAP activation levels are high before the onset of head-and-neck cancer in humans.
2. YAP is further activated as the cancer progresses.
3. The high frequency of mutations in p53, PTEN/PI3K, FAT1 and EGFR all activate YAP.
4. The accumulation of these molecular mutations gradually leads to high YAP activation:
4a. The accumulation of genetic mutations in p53, PTEN/PI3K, FAT1 and EGFR cause YAP to reach its threshold, culminating the onset of cancer.
4b. YAP continues to accumulate after the cancer onset, resulting in further cancer progression.

It is necessary to consider YAP as a basis for head-and-neck cancer onset and progression. This represents a paradigm shift in our understanding of these cancers.

In addition, it has also been shown that risk factors for head-and-neck cancer, such as cigarette smoking, mechanical irritation of mucous membranes and HPV infection, also play a part in YAP activation.

The mouse model in this study: 1. Is the fastest mouse model in the world for showing the natural onset of cancer. 2. Can be used to visualize cancer onset and progression. 3. Allows cancers to be developed naturally at the same time. 4. Allows cancer onset and progression to be analyzed in mice immediately after birth, allowing drug tests to be conducted in a shorter period of time and in small quantities. The results suggest that this mouse model would be ideal, not only for research into developing new treatments for head-and-neck cancer, but also for cancer research in general.

It is expected that the YAP pathway will provide a good target for drugs used in the treatment of head-and-neck cancer because inhibiting YAP not only suppresses the cancer onset but can also prevent its progression.

Researchers from all over the world, including this research group, are currently trying to find new drugs that target the YAP pathway. We have shown one factor that is effective against head-and-neck cancer. It is also expected that the mouse model will become an indispensable tool for evaluating their results and for head-and-neck cancer research.

Glossary
1. MOB1 (Mps One Binder 1): MOB1 is necessary for activating the LATS kinase and acts as a brake (tumor suppressor) on downstream, negatively-controlled YAP. Deletion of MOB1 exacerbates cell proliferation and leads to cancer.
2. YAP (Yes-associated Protein): YAP is a transcriptional coactivator. It forms a complex with multiple transcription factors inside the nucleus to control the expression of various genes. YAP is phosphorylated by the LATS kinase, causing YAP to be excluded from the nucleus and inactivated.
3. Human Papillomavirus (HPV): A type of papillomavirus, there are over a hundred genotypes or varieties of HPV. The virus is linked to genital warts, head-and-neck cancer and cervical cancer.
4. Cre-loxP system: A genetic modification system using Cre recombinase, which catalyze DNA recombination between two loxP sites (a 34-base pair nucleotide sequence). If Cre is expressed in a cell where chromosomal DNA has been artificially inserted into two loxP sites, the intervening DNA segment is deleted.
5. Aneuploid Cells: contain an abnormal number of individual chromosomes. This does not include a difference of one or more complete sets of chromosomes.
6. Multipolar Spindle: Spindles are formed during cell division to separate chromosomes between daughter cells. In normal cells, a pair of centrosomes forms prior to cell division to organize proteins called microtubules into a spindle between the two centrosomes. However, in cancer cells there are more than two centrosomes, and so-called multipolar spindles form. This can cause chromosomal instability and lead to the formation of aneuploid cells because the chromosomes were not correctly allocated at the time of cell division.
7. Dysplasia: The presence of cells of an abnormal type within a tissue. In medical diagnosis, the presence of abnormal-looking cells (dysplasia) observed under a microscope can signify an increased chance of a patient developing cancer (pre-cancerous symptoms).
8. Intraepithelial cancer: This is where cancer cells are found within the intraepithelial layer of cells which form on an organ’s surface. At this point, cancer cells have not been able to penetrate the basement membrane and have not spread deeply. Related terms include Carcinoma in Situ (CIS), intraepithelial tumor and intraepithelial neoplasia.
9. Invasive cancer: is where cancer cells penetrate the basement membrane, a thin membrane separating them from other tissues. From there, cancer can spread to the surrounding area.
10. Dasatinib: a chemotherapy drug that inhibits the SRC kinase family, which can cause malignant transformation in cells. SRC is both directly and indirectly connected to YAP activation, so dasatinib can also inhibit YAP. It is currently used to treat leukemia but is not prescribed for head-and-neck cancer treatment.

Acknowledgements:
This research was made possible primarily through funding to the project ‘The development of cancer treatment methods targeting cancer suppression genes.’ (Lead researcher: Suzuki Akira) as part of the Japanese Agency for Medical Research and Development’s Project for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Evolution (AMED P-CREATE).

March, 2020|Oral Cancer News|

Surveillance of ctDNA in HPV-positive head and neck cancers may predict recurrence

Source: www.targetedonc.com
Author: Nichole Tucker

The detection of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in human papillomavirus (HPV) with an experimental blood test has been associated with high positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) for identifying disease recurrence in HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer, according to a press release from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.1

“The major utility of this test is it’s going to improve our ability to monitor patients after they complete treatment,” said Bhisham Chera, MD, associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology. “Currently, our methods to assess whether the cancer has recurred are invasive, expensive and not always accurate.”

In a prospective biomarker clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, investigators obtained 1006 blood samples for their analysis, 999 of which were evaluable for plasma circulating tumor human papillomavirus DNA (ctHPVDNA). The goal was to determine if surveillance of ctHPVDNA can facilitate earlier detection of recurrence compared with normal clinical follow-up.2

Patients were followed for a median of 23.7 months (range, 6.1-54.7 months), and out of 115 patients, 13% developed disease recurrence (n = 15). Of these recurrences, 1 was local only, 1 was regional only, 10 were distant only, 1 was local and distant, and the remaining 2 were regional and distant. Following treatment, 87 patients had undetectable ctHPVDNA, and none developed recurrence (95% CI, 96%-100%). The development of a positive ctHPVDNA occurred in 28 patients during post-treatment surveillance.

The median time to abnormal ctHPVDNA signal was 12.3 months after complete chemoradiotherapy (CRT; range, 2.6-29.1 months). Sixteen patients had 2 consecutive positive ctHPVDNA results, and 15 of those patients developed biopsy-proven recurrence. The 2 ctHPVDNA blood tests that were consecutively positive had a PPV of 54% (95% CI, 0.339-0.725). A 3.9-month median lead time between ctHPVDNA positivity and biopsy-proven recurrence was observed (range, 0.37-12.9). the actuarial 2-year response-free survival (RFS) rate was 30% in patients who had an abnormal blood test during post-treatment surveillance compared with 100% among the remaining participants (P <.001).

In the study, CRT included cetuximab 250 mg/m2, carboplatin AUC 1.5, and paclitaxel 45 mg/m2. Patients received intravenous chemotherapy during intensity-modulated radiotherapy treatment, which was given weekly. There were 6 doses of chemotherapy in total.

The secondary end points of the study were local control rate, regional control rate, local-regional control rate, distant metastasis-free survival, OS, head and neck quality of life assessments, and speech and swallowing function.

Patients aged 18 years and older were eligible to enroll if they had T0-3, N0 to N2c, M0 squamous head and neck cancer, HPV and p16 positivity, radiologically confirmed hematogenous metastasis within 12 weeks before treatment, and ECOG performance status of 0 to 1, and adequate bone marrow, renal, and hepatic function. Individuals with prior history of radiation to the head and neck, head and neck cancer, those with unresectable disease, severe comorbidity, or known human immunodeficiency virus, or those taking disease-modifying rheumatoid drugs were excluded from the study.

Based on this research the investigators reported a 99% accuracy in confirming whether or not patients remained recurrence-free with their screening method, compared with other methods. For patients who had 2 HPV-positive blood tests, the accuracy was said to be 94%.1

“With this new technology, it offers a noninvasive way to accurately monitor patients for cancer recurrence,” Chera said. “In the long run, blood-based surveillance could be more effective, and possibly help us to detect cancer sooner.”

References
1. Study finds blood test accurately tracks HPV-linked head and neck cancer [news release]. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center; February 4, 2020. https://bit.ly/2tzlw7x. Accessed February 6, 2020.
2. Chera BS, Kumar S, Shen C, et al. Plasma circulating tumor HPV DNA for the surveillance of cancer recurrence in HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer. J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1200/JCO.19.01598.

February, 2020|Oral Cancer News|