HPV blood test: Throat CANCER chemotherapy treatment can cause THESE toxic side-effects

HPV can cause throat cancer, but patients being treated for the disease can be over-treated and many end up suffering from toxic side-effects. 

These can include: skin problems in the area being treated, dry mouth, worsening of hoarseness, trouble swallowing, loss of taste, possible breathing trouble from swelling of the larynx and tiredness.

A new blood test aims to separate the patients who will respond to treatment with “excellent” results from those who might suffer more from the toxic side-effects,  the researchers’ study claimed.

Those with positive results can then be treated successfully with radiation and chemotherapy.

The test will also weed out those who may not react so well - who are believed to have different genetic makeup – saving them from adverse affects of the treatment, thus personalising the treatment. 

Gaorav Gupta, senior author of the study from the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Centre said: “Our work on this blood test is ongoing, but we are optimistic that ‘liquid biopsy’ tests such as ours may be useful in the personalisation of therapy for many patients with HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer [a type of throat cancer].”

The scientists made a test that could find a strain of the HPV virus in blood, that was most strongly linked to the cancer, known as HPV16.

They found that low levels of HPV16 in the blood was linked to a higher risk of disease from chemotherapy and radiation.

Likewise, high levels of HPV 16 in the blood meant the disease was always controlled, in a finding that was “counterintuitive”, the researchers said.

“Our current theory is that these patients with low, or undetectable, levels of HPV16 have a different genetic makeup - one that is perhaps less driven purely by HPV, and thus potentially less sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation,” said Gupta.

“We are performing next generation sequencing on these patients to search for additional genetic markers that may give us a clue regarding why they have a worse prognosis.”

There were some patients that cleared the HPV16 strains from the blood very quickly. These patients’ findings could be used to find further ways for low intensity treatment.

“A tantalising - and yet currently untested - hypothesis is that whether this subset of ultra-low risk patients may be treated with even lower doses of chemoradiotherapy,” Gupta added.

HPV oropharyngeal cancers are harder to diagnose than tobacco-related cancers, as the symptoms aren’t always obvious, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation.

Symptoms include a sore throat, difficulty swallowing and difficulty moving the tongue.

More males than females develop oropharyngeal cancer, with white, non-smoking males aged 35 to 55 most at risk.

The cancer can develop after oral sex. It can be treated successfully if caught early.



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