Behind the research
Squamous cell cancer in the head and neck (HNSCC) provides a fascinating dichotomy because approximately one-third of the tumors are caused by HPV and about two-thirds are a result of random mutations. Even though HPV(+) HNSCC presents at a more advanced stage than HPV(-) tumors, the survival is markedly (30 to 40 percent at five years) better in patients with HPV(+) HNSCC.
Advanced stage HNSCC is often treated with radiation therapy. We have developed an immune competent model of HPV(+) and HPV(-) tonsil cell cancer in mice. Our preliminary data shows that clearance of HPV(+) cancers treated with radiation occurs only in the setting of an intact immune response. We hypothesize that HPV(+) cancers are curable due to an immune response that is induced to the tumor cells with radiation therapy. Our aim is to improve understanding of immunologic clearance so that novel therapies can be created that would decrease treatment and morbidity and increase survival.