Many Throat Cancer Patients can Skip Neck Surgery, Says Study

by Sheela Philomena on  September 17, 2014 at 10:30 PM Cancer News   - G J E 4
Patients with human papillomavirus (HPV) positive oropharyngeal cancer see increased rates of complete response on a post-radiation neck dissection than those with HPV-negative oropharyngeal cancer, finds new research.
 Many Throat Cancer Patients can Skip Neck Surgery, Says Study
Many Throat Cancer Patients can Skip Neck Surgery, Says Study

"For patients that achieve a complete response, neck surgery is probably unnecessary," says Thomas J. Galloway, MD, Attending Physician and Director of Clinical Research at Fox Chase and lead author on the study.

After radiation and chemotherapy to remove tumors from the tonsils or back of the tongue, many head and neck cancer patients still have persistent lumps in their neck, albeit perhaps smaller than when they were first diagnosed. "The question is: Do we need to remove those lumps, as well, or can we just let them dissolve on their own?" asks Dr. Galloway.

To investigate, he and his colleagues reviewed the medical records from 396 patients whose oropharyngeal tumors had spread to at least one lymph node. Within 180 days after completing radiation therapy, 146 patients underwent neck surgery. For 99 patients, their records indicated whether or not their tumors had likely been triggered by HPV.

Interestingly, patients with HPV often respond better to treatment for their oropharyngeal tumors than those without. The researchers noted the same trend here - people who tested positive for HPV (measured by the presence of a protein called p16) were less likely to have a recurrence of their cancers, regardless of whether or not the tumors had completely disappeared following treatment. Indeed, patients' HPV status was the strongest predictor of whether or not they were alive at the end of the study.

Among the patients who underwent neck surgery, any lingering bumps were more likely to be benign if patients were infected with HPV. "The bump might have become a permanent scar, or in some cases, it would have eventually disappeared," says Dr. Galloway.

Currently, it is not routine to consider a patients' HPV status before making the decision to perform neck surgery (the decision is based on physical examination and imaging studies), which can cause problems in the shoulder and neck, including swallowing, says Dr. Galloway; these findings suggest they should. "There's good reason to avoid neck surgery if we can."
Source: Eurekalert

Post your Comments

Comments should be on the topic and should not be abusive. The editorial team reserves the right to review and moderate the comments posted on the site.
User Avatar
* Your comment can be maximum of 2500 characters
Notify me when reply is posted I agree to the terms and conditions

You May Also Like

View All