HPV-related throat cancer less likely to be fatal

Patients are more likely to survive throat cancer when HPV is implicated, research shows.

Research led by Dr Angela Hong from the University of Sydney found patients with HPV positive oropharyngeal cancer were four times more likely to survive than those with cancers not caused by the virus.

Cancer was also three times less likely to reoccur in these patients.

Researchers studied 198 patients with stage 3/4 oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) who were treated with surgery or definitive radiotherapy. HPV status was also determined using a test.

These patients were followed up over almost 20 years.

Researchers found 42% of cancers were HPV-positive. Patients with this type of cancer were one-third or less as likely to have loco-regional recurrence, or to die of any cause than people with HPV-negative cancers.

Dr Hong said: ‘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.’

Lesley Walker, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘It’s possible that, in the future, patients with HPV positive cancers may be able to have less intensive forms of treatment which would reduce the side-effects of therapy.’

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