Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Scientists may now be able to detect oral cancers several years before the clinical onset of the disease, according to a new study.
An international team led by World Health Organisation’s scientists used a blood test to detect antibodies to a high-risk type of human papilloma virus (HPV16).The presence of these antibodies indicated a very high risk of developing an HPV-associated cancer of the oropharynx.
“These results are very encouraging. Up to now, it was not known whether these antibodies were present in blood before the cancer became clinically detectable. If these results are confirmed, future screening tools could be developed for early detection of the disease,” said Dr Paul Brennan, Head of the Genetics Section at IARC and the senior author of the study. “To date there are no available markers for early detection of this cancer,” he added.
HPV known for causing cervical cancer and other genital cancers, it is now responsible for an increasing number of cancers of the oropharynx, particularly among men. About 30% of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers worldwide are caused by HPV16.
In a group of 135 oropharyngeal cancer patients who were part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, about third of them had HPV16 E6 antibodies in their blood up to 12 years before the onset of disease.
Another significant finding was that patients with oral cancers who had tested positive for antibodies against HPV16 E6 before cancer diagnosis were three times more likely to be alive five years after their diagnosis than those who had tested HPV negative i.e. whose cancers were caused by alcohol or tobacco use.