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Head & Neck Cancers

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Expand Collapse Head & Neck Cancers  - General Description This year about 52,000 people in the U.S. will be told by a doctor that they have cancer of the head and neck. Approximately 70% of these new patients will be men. However, about 265,000 Americans remain alive today after having been diagnosed with head & neck cancer.

Head and neck cancers develop inside the mouth (in the oral cavity), nose (nasal cavity), or the tube (pharynx) that runs from the back of the nose to the top of the windpipe (trachea) and the top of the tube that goes to the stomach (esophagus). Cancers that begins in the lips, salivary glands, throat or voice box (larynx) are also classified as head and neck cancer. However, cancers of the esophagus, eye, brain, and thyroid gland usually aren't regarded as head and neck cancers, and neither are cancers of the skin, muscles, or bones of the head and neck. Head and neck cancers usually begin in squamous cells and therefore are called squamous cell carcinomas. The FDA has approved the targeted therapy cetuximab (Erbitux) for treatment of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

Head and neck cancer (and other tumors) can spread (metastasize) from the place where it started (the primary tumor) in 3 ways. First, it can invade the normal tissue surrounding it. Second, cancer cells can enter the lymph system and travel through lymph vessels to distant parts of the body. Third, the cancer cells can get into the bloodstream and go to other places in the body. In these distant places, the cancer cells cause secondary tumors to grow. To find out whether the cancer has entered the lymph system, a surgeon removes all or part of a node near the primary tumor and a pathologist looks at it through a microscope to see if cancer cells are present. Several kinds of imaging can also be performed to determine if the cancer has spread. These include MRI and CT scans.

Despite significant improvements in the treatment of head & neck cancers, novel therapies and treatment strategies are needed.

Source: National Cancer Institute, 2012
An estimated 644,000 new cases of head and neck cancer are diagnosed each year worldwide, posing the sixth leading cause of cancer death. The American Cancer Society projected 39,400 new head and neck cancer diagnoses and 7,900 cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2009. In Europe, the projected incidence for 2008 was 132,300 and the mortality was 62,800. The estimated annual incidence of head and neck cancers is 2-4-fold higher among men than women.

More than 95% of head and neck cancers are of squamous cell histology (SCCHN) and originate in the mucosal lining of the upper aerodigestive tract. Anatomic sites include the lip/oral cavity, nasopharynx, oropharynx, hypopharynx and larynx. Common risk factors include tobacco use (smoking and/or chewing) and alcohol consumption, with a suggested synergistic effect. Less common risk factors include chewing of betel nuts (a common practice in some parts of Asia) and occupational exposures. Infection with the oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) has been identified as a distinct and rising risk factor, particularly among patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx, specifically tonsils and the base of tongue. The incidence of SCCHN has increased steadily during the last several decades, whereas the incidence of tobacco-associated SCCHN has decreased, to the point where the incidence of HPV-associated and non-HPV-associated cancers is nearly equivalent. HPV status has been shown to strongly predict outcomes in patients with locally or regionally advanced oropharynx squamous cell carcinoma, but the prognostic impact of HPV in recurrent/metastatic SCCHN is currently less well understood.

Molecular hallmarks of SCCHN that have been identified as key drivers over the past decade include gene mutations in TP53, CDKN2A, PIK3CA, PTEN and HRAS. Recent investigations using high-throughput gene sequencing also found mutations in other cell differentiation-related genes, such as NOTCH1, NOTCH2, NOTCH3 and TP63, suggesting that deregulation of the terminal differentiation program is critical for squamous cancer development.

The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its downstream molecular pathways are of particular importance in SCCHN. EGFR is overexpressed in up to 90% of all SCCHN. High expression levels of EGFR and transforming growth factor (TGF, a ligand of EGFR), as well as EGFR gene amplification, has been associated with increased resistance to treatment and poorer clinical outcome, including decreased disease-free and overall survival.

Therapeutic options and treatment decisions at first diagnosis are dependent on disease stage. For early-stage and locally advanced disease (the majority of new
cases), therapy is tailored to the primary site of disease, feasibility of organ preservation and prognosis and functional outcomes following therapy. Despite aggressive treatment, only 35% to 55% of patients who present with locally advanced SCCHN remain alive and free of disease 3 years after standard curative treatment. Between 30-40% of patients develop loco-regional recurrences, with distant metastases occurring in 20-30% of cases. The majority of recurrences appear within 2 years of initial treatment. An additional 10-20% of patients have evidence of distant metastases at the time of first diagnosis.

For patients with recurrent/metastatic SCCHN who are considered incurable with surgery or radiotherapy, first-line palliative treatment options include platinum agents, taxanes, methotrexate, 5-fluorouracil and cetuximab. Even with combination regimens, objective radiographic responses are achieved in fewer than 40% of patients in most large studies. Patients with disease progression on platinum-based therapy have limited treatment options and a poor prognosis. In these patients, overall response to second-line cytotoxic therapy has been 3%. Poor survival at this stage is related to the development of metastases and poor local disease control.

Source: National Cancer Institute, 2012
This year about 52,000 people in the U.S. will be told by a doctor that they have cancer of the head and neck. Approximately 70% of these new patients will be men. However, about 265,000 Americans remain alive today after having been diagnosed with head & neck cancer.

Head and neck cancers develop inside the mouth (in the oral cavity), nose (nasal cavity), or the tube (pharynx) that runs from the back of the nose to the top of the windpipe (trachea) and the top of the tube that goes to the stomach (esophagus). Cancers that begins in the lips, salivary glands, throat or voice box (larynx) are also classified as head and neck cancer. However, cancers of the esophagus, eye, brain, and thyroid gland usually aren't regarded as head and neck cancers, and neither are cancers of the skin, muscles, or bones of the head and neck. Head and neck cancers usually begin in squamous cells and therefore are called squamous cell carcinomas. The FDA has approved the targeted therapy cetuximab (Erbitux) for treatment of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

Head and neck cancer (and other tumors) can spread (metastasize) from the place where it started (the primary tumor) in 3 ways. First, it can invade the normal tissue surrounding it. Second, cancer cells can enter the lymph system and travel through lymph vessels to distant parts of the body. Third, the cancer cells can get into the bloodstream and go to other places in the body. In these distant places, the cancer cells cause secondary tumors to grow. To find out whether the cancer has entered the lymph system, a surgeon removes all or part of a node near the primary tumor and a pathologist looks at it through a microscope to see if cancer cells are present. Several kinds of imaging can also be performed to determine if the cancer has spread. These include MRI and CT scans.

Despite significant improvements in the treatment of head & neck cancers, novel therapies and treatment strategies are needed.

Source: National Cancer Institute, 2012
An estimated 644,000 new cases of head and neck cancer are diagnosed each year worldwide, posing the sixth leading cause of cancer death. The American Cancer Society projected 39,400 new head and neck cancer diagnoses and 7,900 cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2009. In Europe, the projected incidence for 2008 was 132,300 and the mortality was 62,800. The estimated annual incidence of head and neck cancers is 2-4-fold higher among men than women.

More than 95% of head and neck cancers are of squamous cell histology (SCCHN) and originate in the mucosal lining of the upper aerodigestive tract. Anatomic sites include the lip/oral cavity, nasopharynx, oropharynx, hypopharynx and larynx. Common risk factors include tobacco use (smoking and/or chewing) and alcohol consumption, with a suggested synergistic effect. Less common risk factors include chewing of betel nuts (a common practice in some parts of Asia) and occupational exposures. Infection with the oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) has been identified as a distinct and rising risk factor, particularly among patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx, specifically tonsils and the base of tongue. The incidence of SCCHN has increased steadily during the last several decades, whereas the incidence of tobacco-associated SCCHN has decreased, to the point where the incidence of HPV-associated and non-HPV-associated cancers is nearly equivalent. HPV status has been shown to strongly predict outcomes in patients with locally or regionally advanced oropharynx squamous cell carcinoma, but the prognostic impact of HPV in recurrent/metastatic SCCHN is currently less well understood.

Molecular hallmarks of SCCHN that have been identified as key drivers over the past decade include gene mutations in TP53, CDKN2A, PIK3CA, PTEN and HRAS. Recent investigations using high-throughput gene sequencing also found mutations in other cell differentiation-related genes, such as NOTCH1, NOTCH2, NOTCH3 and TP63, suggesting that deregulation of the terminal differentiation program is critical for squamous cancer development.

The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its downstream molecular pathways are of particular importance in SCCHN. EGFR is overexpressed in up to 90% of all SCCHN. High expression levels of EGFR and transforming growth factor (TGF, a ligand of EGFR), as well as EGFR gene amplification, has been associated with increased resistance to treatment and poorer clinical outcome, including decreased disease-free and overall survival.

Therapeutic options and treatment decisions at first diagnosis are dependent on disease stage. For early-stage and locally advanced disease (the majority of new
cases), therapy is tailored to the primary site of disease, feasibility of organ preservation and prognosis and functional outcomes following therapy. Despite aggressive treatment, only 35% to 55% of patients who present with locally advanced SCCHN remain alive and free of disease 3 years after standard curative treatment. Between 30-40% of patients develop loco-regional recurrences, with distant metastases occurring in 20-30% of cases. The majority of recurrences appear within 2 years of initial treatment. An additional 10-20% of patients have evidence of distant metastases at the time of first diagnosis.

For patients with recurrent/metastatic SCCHN who are considered incurable with surgery or radiotherapy, first-line palliative treatment options include platinum agents, taxanes, methotrexate, 5-fluorouracil and cetuximab. Even with combination regimens, objective radiographic responses are achieved in fewer than 40% of patients in most large studies. Patients with disease progression on platinum-based therapy have limited treatment options and a poor prognosis. In these patients, overall response to second-line cytotoxic therapy has been 3%. Poor survival at this stage is related to the development of metastases and poor local disease control.

Source: National Cancer Institute, 2012
Expand Collapse No gene selected  - General Description
Cancer research and treatments are constantly changing. Knowing the gene associated with your cancer can help doctors determine the most appropriate direction of care for you. To learn how you can find out more about genetic testing please visit http://www.massgeneral.org/cancer/news/faq.aspx or contact the Cancer Center.
Expand Collapse No mutation selected
The mutation of a gene provides clinicians with a very detailed look at your cancer. Knowing this information could change the course of your care. To learn how you can find out more about genetic testing please visit http://www.massgeneral.org/cancer/news/faq.aspx or contact the Cancer Center.

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Trial Matches: (D) - Disease
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