Discovery of six mutated genes in head and neck squamous cell cancer provides an opportunity to develop customized treatment for the disease, researchers say.
"These findings should help us better treat patients by allowing us to take a more personalized approach than is currently possible with this cancer," said Jeffrey Myers, M.D., Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Department of Head and Neck Surgery. Myers is co-senior author of one of two papers published online on the Science Express feature of the journal Science Thursday.
"Longer term, we'll see how patients with these genetic mutations do with our conventional treatments of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or chemoradiation," Myers said. "This will help us identify groups of patients who need additional or different treatments."
MD Anderson scientists teamed with others from Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center to analyze the genetics of head and neck tumors. A separate team of researchers from the Broad Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine reached the same conclusions.
About half of head and neck squamous cell cancer patients survive for five years after diagnosis. Treatment can disfigure and/or impair breathing, swallowing, speech, taste, hearing or smell. Each year about 50,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States and about 500,000 worldwide.
Prime risk factors for the disease are tobacco and alcohol use and infection with high-risk subtypes of the human papillomavirus, Myers said. In India, Taiwan and other Asian nations chewing betel or areca nuts also raises the risk of developing oral cancers.
The genetic alterations identified by the research might also provide targets for new drugs. The researchers noted that prevention, risk assessment and early detection of head and neck cancer remain the best ways to reduce suffering and death from the disease.
Read the News Release :
First Genetic Variations Pinpointed in Head and Neck Cancer
MD Anderson-Johns Hopkins-Baylor College of Medicine paper
Broad Institute-Dana-Farber-University of Pittsburgh paper