Local research breakthrough on HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer
HPV infection is widely known as a risk factor for cervical cancer. However, the virus is also linked to a broader range of cancers, such as oropharyngeal cancer.
Local experts for the first time discovered that a reduced dosage of radiation and chemotherapy for patients with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer can achieve similar treatment outcomes.
The discovery could help patients receive the same quality of treatment through a lower-intensity therapy, which exposes patients to less toxicity and has less negative influence, and facilitates a faster return to normal life, experts from the Shanghai Cancer Center said.
The discovery was published by world-leading International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics.
The prevalence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer has become more common in recent years, due to changes in sexual behavior and other lifestyles changes. HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, has been identified as a risk factor. HPV-positive tumors have been identified as a unique category of head and neck malignancies, accounting for roughly 60 percent of all oropharyngeal cancers.
About 60 percent of the Shanghai Cancer Center's patients with oropharyngeal cancer are HPV positive, the same as in Western countries.
Previously, the usual treatment for oropharyngeal cancer was surgery along with radiation and chemotherapy. However, Dr Lu Xueguan from the hospital said recent research found patients with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer had more positive responses to radiation and chemotherapy than HPV-negative patients, and most could achieve long-term survival simply through radiation and chemotherapy, without surgery.
After the treatment received good results, Lu's team found many patients undergoing standard radiation and chemotherapy could suffer negative effects such as poor swallowing functions, impacting patients' recovery and quality of life.
"We started to look for a treatment plan with similar effects but with lower toxicity," Lu said. "There have been some improvements in the international medical field, but a blank in the domestic industry."
Doctors began the nation's first research on HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer with lower-intensity treatment plans. Forty-eight patients were included in the study, which found all the patients with lower-intensity treatment achieved a two-year survival and suffered less complications and side effects, such as vomiting, fatigue, and weight loss.