Medical Xpress (08.13.2013)
Oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue, is usually caused by smoking and alcohol use; however, HPV recently has emerged as a major cause of this type of cancer. Dr. Anthony Nichols of Lawson Health Research Institute, Dr. David Palma of Lawson Health Research Institute and Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and colleagues conducted a retrospective study to determine the impact of HPV-related tonsillar cancer in Canada.
The researchers searched the London Health Sciences Centre pathology database for information on patients diagnosed with tonsillar cancer in three time periods: 1993 to 1999, 2000 to 2005, and 2006 to 2011. They reviewed patients’ charts for information on diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up, and analyzed biopsy samples to discover whether the patients had HPV in their DNA.
The researchers analyzed 160 patient records and found 57 percent of cases had HPV in the DNA, particularly in cases involving young nonsmokers. The incidence of the cancer increased significantly throughout the selected time periods. Treatment included radiation and a mixture of chemotherapy and radiation. Survival rates improved and recurrence-free survival increased from 53 to 82 percent. Five-year survival rates increased from 37 to 83 percent.
Nichols commented that the data indicated this disease would result in a major impact on the Canadian health system in the future and suggested a focus on prevention strategies, including vaccinations and developing better treatments with fewer side effects to preserve patient quality of life.
The full report, “The Epidemic of Human Papillomavirus and Oropharyngeal Cancer in a Canadian Population,” was published in the journal Current Oncology (2013; 20 (4):212–219).