New Research Probes Link Between HPV Virus And Throat Cancer

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

One-third of all cases of throat cancer can be linked to human papillomavirus (HPV), claims new research appearing in the Journal of Clinical Oncology this month.

HPV, which is the primary cause of cervical cancer, is known to spread through genital or oral contact, according to BBC News reports published Saturday. There are more than 100 different varieties of the illness, though two of them (HPV-16 and HPV-18) are most likely to cause cancer.

Experts believe HPV-16 is responsible for approximately 60 percent of cervical cancers, 80 percent of anal cancers and 60 percent of oral cancers, the British news agency added. The newly published study focused on HPV’s link with oropharyngeal cancer, or cancer of the back of the throat.

“It looked at blood test results collected from people who took part in a huge prospective study into lifestyle and cancer, who were all healthy at the start,” the BBC said. “Everyone gives a blood sample when they join the study, and in this case the researchers were able to check for the presence of antibodies to one of HPV’s key proteins – E6. E6 knocks out part of cells’ protection system, which should prevent cancer developing.

“Having the antibodies means HPV has already overcome that defense and caused cancerous changes in cells,” they added. “The researchers compared blood test results – some more than 10 years old – for 135 people who went on to develop throat cancer and for 1,599 cancer-free people. The University of Oxford team found 35 percent of those with throat cancer had the antibodies, compared with fewer than one percent of those who were cancer-free.”

Furthermore, the study revealed 84 percent of those with the antibodies were still alive five years following their initial diagnosis, while just 58 percent of those without the antibodies lived that long.

A similar study, published this month in the journal PLoS ONE, produced results suggesting young women who receive an HPV vaccine in order to prevent cervical cancer could also be protected from throat cancer, according to Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News.

Dr. Rolando Herrero of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France, told Reinberg he and his colleagues found that women who received the vaccine experienced a 90 percent reduction in HPV infection prevalence versus those who did not. Herrero believes, “it is possible that the prevention of the infection will also lead to the prevention of these cancers.”

As part of their study, Herrero and his colleagues recruited nearly 7,500 women between the ages of 18 and 25 and randomly gave each either an HPV vaccine or a hepatitis A vaccine. They followed up with the subjects four years later and found the HPV vaccine was 93 percent effective in preventing throat cancer. Only one woman who was given the HPV vaccine demonstrated an oral infection, while 15 in the hepatitis A group showed such signs.

Herrero’s research, “will provide a basis to begin to study how the vaccine will help to protect against throat cancer,” Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, a gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told HealthDay News. “It will provide a basis to begin to study how the vaccine will help to protect against throat cancer.

“It’s going to take a while to study those who have been vaccinated to determine that they are protected against throat cancer. This is just the beginning,” she added. “It also really highlights that we need to vaccinate young boys.”

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