Mysterious Cancers of 'Unknown' Origin in Men Traced Back to HPV - Dream Health

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Tuesday 26 January 2016

Mysterious Cancers of 'Unknown' Origin in Men Traced Back to HPV


Cancer Ailments Mysterious – Difficult to Define

Some of the cancer ailments seem mysterious and doctors find it difficult in defining where they may originate and how they tend to spread. These types of cancers are given the name of `unknown primary squamous cell carcinoma – UPSCC and around 4% of head and neck cancers belong to the UPSCC variety. They tend to appear in this section of the body after being metastasized or spread from somewhere though the exact origin of the cancer cell is not known.

It is this lack of information of cancer type which seems to make the treatment of cancer a bit difficult. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore have now found that the human papillomavirus – HPV has been strongly linked with UPSCC in the head and the neck part and more precisely, cancer of the oropharynx, in the middle area of the throat which comprises of tonsils and the base of the tongue.

 According to the researchers, this discovery could be helpful in turning the `unknown’ in UPSCC into a `known’, helping the doctors on a treatment option and target therapy for the victim.

HPV Infection on the Rise

Besides this, the discovery also strengthens the theory that the rising rates of HPV infection are on the rise of not only oropharynx or throat cancers but also UPSCCs, thereby further emphasizing the significance of vaccinating against HPV infection. The study appears in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery dated January 14.

HPV is mainly a sexually transmitted virus where most of the infection does not seem to cause any harm. But it could be the main cause of cervical cancer and is the cause of almost 300,000 deaths annually all over the world, as per World Health Organization. HPV too, together with substantial tobacco and with the use of alcohol is a major cause of throat cancer, especially in men. Around 75% of the assessed 12,500 annual cases of throat cancer in the United States are the cause of HPC as per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

An associate professor of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Dr Carole Fakhry, in a new study had led a research team that examined 84 male patients with UPSCC over a period of 9.5 years, which was the largest study of its kind at a single hospital.

HPV – Probable Cause for Cancer

It was observed that over 90% of the patients were HPV positive portraying that HPV seems to be a probable cause for cancer. Fakhry’s team found that, for the almost 60% of the patients with these `unknown’ cancers, they could ultimate detect the tumour’s main source.

All of these cancers had been in the oropharynx in the base of the tongue or in the tonsils thereby changing the dim UPSCC diagnosis to orophryngeal cancer with better prediction. Researchers also documented an increase in the number of UPSCC cases at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and in the first four years of the study, there were around 14 cases of UPSCC.

In the following three years, there were 30 cases and over the next 2.5 years, 37 cases. This rise indicated the national trend of increased HPV infection rate in young people. Fakhry who had emphasized on the importance of HPV vaccine for teenagers, states that the study, `gives a glimpse of what is happening at other hospitals ‘.

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