Georgetown Univeristy Logo Patients with head and neck cancer can probably benefit from this piece of information. A groundbreaking study led by the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center claims that people with head and neck cancers tested positive for HPV have higher survival rates when treated with systemic chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Similar outcomes also appeared among patients subjected to a combination of radiation therapy and cetuximab.

While conducting the study, investigators assessed from sequentially treated patients between 2007 and 2009 with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. These patients were made to undergo cetuximab and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Among the total participants, while six reported stage III disease, 14 had stage IVa disease. The median age of all the study subjects was 63 and ranged from 31 to 78 years. IMRT was provided for seven to eight weeks with a media dose of 72.0 Gy and cetuximab for a media of seven cycles.

Keith Unger, MD, lead author of the study, enlightened, “We found a statistically significant higher progression free survival rates when comparing the outcomes of patients with HPV-positive tumors to those with HPV-negative tumors.”

The primary tumor sites probably were oral cavity (1), oropharynx (12), hypopharynx (1), larynx (5), and one unknown site . Having conducted a follow up of 19 months, four patients died and 12 were diagnosed with disease progression. After a one-year progression free survival rates was reported by all the patients with HPV-positive tumors and 31 percent of those who were HPV negative. A progression free survival rates for two years were registered by 60 percent HPV positive and 23 percent with HPV negative tumors.

No statistically significant data was apparently found in improved overall survival. One-year overall survival rates were possibly 100 percent among those with HPV-positive tumors and 83 percent in HPV-negative tumors. Scientists claim that two-year survival rates were 100 percent for HPV-positive tumors and 71 percent for HPV negative tumors. No association between overall survival or progression free survival and stage, nodal status, primary site, or the duration of radiotherapy was registered.

The study will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology, October 31st through November 4th in San Diego.