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Low-dose radiation for HPV-positive head and neck cancers

2 June 2014

Low-dose radiation for HPV-positive head and neck cancers

Head and neck cancer patients with human papillomavirus (HPV) could be effectively treated with lower-than-standard doses of radiation, a new study suggests.

Lead researcher Anthony Cmelak at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Tennessee said: “This ‘chemoselection’ can guide radiotherapy treatment strategies aimed at lowering acute and late toxicities.”

The study involved 90 patients with stage III/IV HPV-positive oropharyngeal squamous carcinoma who received induction chemotherapy. The 62 patients who had no signs of cancer on endoscopic exam received a lower dose of radiation, while the other 28 received the standard dose.

At two years, it was found that overall survival was better in the low-dose group than the standard-dose group.

However, Cmelak says that he doesn’t recommend using lower doses for these patients off-study, as this could result in under-treatment. 

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