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New $2.9M grant will look at impact of HPV on head and neck cancer

Date Visible: 
09/15/2020 - 3:45pm

Media contact: Nicole Fawcett, 734-764-2220 |  Patients may contact Cancer AnswerLine, 800-865-1125

A team of researchers from the Rogel Cancer Center have received a $2.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to look at how HPV behaves in patients with head and neck cancer and how that could help identify who might benefit from less-aggressive treatment.

HPV, the human papillomavirus, has caused a rise in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, which affects the soft palate, part of the throat, the tonsils and the back of the tongue. Patients with oropharyngeal cancer have a 20% risk of dying within five years of being diagnosed. Treatment, which can include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, can cause problems with eating, swallowing or speaking.

“Treatment for oropharyngeal cancer has life-long effects on quality of life. It is essential to identify which patients might benefit from de-escalated treatment,” says principal investigator Maureen Sartor, Ph.D., associate professor of computational medicine and bioinformatics and of biostatistics at the University of Michigan. “Our long term goal is to differentiate HPV-positive patients who have a good prognosis and are most likely to benefit from de-escalated therapy and those who require a more aggressive regimen.”

The researchers will look at 300 patients with oropharyngeal cancer to assess whether HPV has become integrated into the patient’s own genome in their tumor cells. They will study the effects of HPV integration and how that impacts survival.

Based on results, the researchers will look to begin biomarker-based clinical trials to determine whether treatment can be tailored to an individual to create the best chance of survival while also maintaining quality of life.

Additional principal investigators are Nisha D’Silva, B.D.S., MSD, Ph.D., and Laura Rozek, Ph.D. Grant citation: National Cancer Institute grant R01-CA-250214-01