Key breakthrough in HPV-related mouth cancer

A breakthrough piece of research has shown that cancer patients with the human papilloma virus (HPV) have a greater chance of survival from mouth cancer than those whose cancer is HPV negative.

The new study found that monitoring cancer tumours for the HPV can help health experts predict a patient’s survival chances.

Conducted by Dr Angela Hong, at the University of Sydney, the research monitored 198 patients suffering from mouth cancer after they had surgery or radiotherapy.

Following the patients for a period of two years, it was found that those with HPV positive cancer were four times less likely to die than those who were HPV negative.

Another astonishing discovery was that cancer was three times less likely to reoccur at the primary site in patients with HPV positive cancer.

Dr Angela Hong said: ‘Our study, which focused on a group of patients with advanced oropharyngeal cancer, found that those with cancer caused by HPV had a significantly better chance of survival than cancer which was not caused by HPV. And this beneficial HPV effect was seen regardless of the type of treatment they had.

‘HPV status is now the strongest predictor of whether a patient will survive oropharyngeal cancer or whether the disease will return. Various clinical trials are now in development to tailor treatment according to HPV status of tumours.’

Mouth cancer is currently one of the fastest growing cancers in the UK, and is responsible for one death every five hours.

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