A new study has found that head and neck cancer patients with HPV-positive tumours survive longer and are more responsive to treatment than patients who are HPV-negative.
In studies, it has been shown that human papillomavirus is involved in the development of some head and neck cancers, particularly cancers of the upper throat, or oropharynx.
Looking at the studies conducted, it was indicated that patients with HPV-positive tumours generally have a better prognosis than those patients with HPV-negative tumours, however these findings are yet to be confirmed in clinical trials.
Maura Gillison, M.D., Ph.D., of Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and colleagues examined the association between HPV infection and cancer prognosis, and studied 96 patients with stage III or IV cancer of the oropharynx or larynx (voicebox).
The patients were all placed in the same phase II clinical trial and they were all given the same treatment. The researchers collected data on the patients' response to treatment and their survival times, as well as whether their tumours were HPV-positive or -negative.
It was found that patients with HPV-positive tumours had higher response rates after chemoradiation therapy, compared to patients with HPV-negative tumours (84 percent vs. 57 percent), and their two-year overall survival rates were also higher (95 percent vs. 62 percent).
"Our data suggest that the risks and benefits of...therapies should be considered separately for HPV-positive and -negative patients," the authors wrote.
The study has been published online February 12 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.