Surgical treatments for mouth and throat cancer: uncertainty in the evidence

Oral cancer is among the most common cancers worldwide, with more than 400,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012. This review looks at oral cavity cancer (mouth cancer) and oropharyngeal cancer (throat cancer). The treatment of these cancers can involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of two or all three therapies. This topic area was identified as a priority by the an expert working group for oral and maxillofacial surgery in 2014. Continue reading

Preventing oral cancer by treating oral leukoplakia: limited evidence

shutterstock_163829423Oral leukoplakia is a white patch formed in the mouth lining that cannot be rubbed off. It often does not hurt and may go unnoticed for years. People with leukoplakia develop oral cancer more often than people without it. Preventing this is critical; rates of oral cancer survival longer than five years after diagnosis are low. Drugs, surgery and other therapies have been tried for treatment of oral leukoplakia. Medical and complementary treatments can be locally applied (i.e. directly onto the white patch) or systemic (affecting the whole body, e.g. taken as a pill). Continue reading

EGFR mAb shows promising results for the treatment of oral cancer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOral cancers (cancer of the mouth and cancer of the throat) are the sixth most common cancer worldwide, accounting for an estimated 4% of all cancers. There is a higher frequency of these cancers in men. Smoking, alcohol consumption and betel quid chewing are the main risk factors. Cancer of the throat is associated with infection from the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be transmitted through sexual contact. Low socioeconomic status (a measure of a person’s income, education and occupation in relation to other people’s) is associated with a higher frequency of oral cancers and poorer survival rates. Survival following a diagnosis of mouth or throat cancer remains poor, with around 50% of people still alive at five years (five-year survival rate).

New therapies targeted at the cells that give rise to oral cancers are being developed. The advantage these may have over conventional chemotherapy is that rather than affecting both healthy and cancerous cells they just target cancer cells. Immunotherapy (also known as biological therapy, biotherapy or biological response modifier therapy) may improve the functioning of the immune system so it is more effective at destroying cancer cells. Local immunotherapy delivers treatment directly into the tumour and systemic immunotherapy targets the whole body, and may be useful for stopping the cancer spreading or the return of primary tumours in more advanced cancer. Continue reading