Blood and Saliva Tests Help Predict Return of HPV-Linked Oral Cancers
Baltimore, MD - Physicians at Johns Hopkins have developed blood and saliva tests that help accurately predict recurrences of HPV-linked oral cancers in a substantial number of patients. The tests screen for DNA fragments of the human papillomavirus (HPV) shed from cancer cells lingering in the mouth or other parts of the body. A description of the development is published in the July 9 issue of JAMA Otolaryngology.
“There is a window of opportunity in the year after initial therapy to take an aggressive approach to spotting recurrences and intensively addressing them while they are still highly treatable,” says Joseph Califano, M.D., professor of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, member of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, and medical director of the Milton J. Dance Jr. Head and Neck Center at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. “Until now, there has been no reliable biological way to identify which patients are at higher risk for recurrence, so these tests should greatly help do so,” he adds.
Patients with HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers are generally examined every one to three months in the first year after diagnosis. Recurrences are often found when patients report ulcers, pain or lumps in the neck. But imaging tests are unreliable in detecting cancer recurrence earlier, and the location of oropharyngeal cancers – in the tonsils, throat and base of the tongue -- make it difficult for physicians to spot budding lesions.
Califano says survival rates for patients with early-stage, HPV-related oral cancers are as high as 90 percent within the first two years, and a study reported by Johns Hopkins experts in February showed that, even after recurrence, more than 50 percent of patients survive two years after their recurrence. The new blood and saliva tests have the potential to improve these rates, he adds. Continue>
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